Committee to gather feedback for downtown Albert Lea bathroom

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Albert Lea Parks and Recreation Advisory Board committee will gather feedback in the coming weeks about the possibility of placing a restroom downtown near the site of a planned splash pad.

Vern Rasmussen Sr., Brian Hensley and Anne Sternhagen will gauge the feedback of local residents before next month’s board meeting.

One possible location for a restroom could be on Washington Avenue, west of the planned splash pad, which is set to be installed next month west of the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Fountain Street.

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The restrooms would serve people who will be downtown for events.

“This is very much a need. (I) 100 percent think this is a need that we need downtown,” Rasmussen said. “I think we just need to put a positive foot forward and decide what we got.”

He said no one has told him they were opposed to having a restroom downtown. Proper precaution is needed based on a past downtown restroom that was vandalized, he said.

Assistant Albert Lea City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said installing a facility similar to one at Pioneer Park — with both restrooms and a kitchen area — would be expected to cost $200,000. A facility with a simple bathroom is expected to cost between $40,000 and $60,000.

Safety concerns were addressed about placing a restroom across the street from the splash pad in Fountain Lake Park because of children who would use the site.

The proposed restroom was discussed at the April 10 council meeting. Board member and city councilor Jason Howland said the council is waiting for direction from the board.

In a presentation to the board, Albert Lea Farmers Market advocate Verlys Huntley read directly from positive responses she received for the idea of a bathroom in downtown Albert Lea from community members.

“There’s a real need for a restroom there if the city wants to get more activities in that area,” she said.

Huntley suggested having restrooms on one side of the facility and kitchen space on the building’s other side.

In a presentation to the board, splash pad committee member Sarah Stultz discussed plans for the splash pad. The site is expected to have jets coming out of the ground and landscaping around it. Fencing is expected to keep children safe at the site.

The splash pad is being made possible after the committee raised about $130,000. The group has about $30,000 more to raise of the total $160,000 cost.

Stultz, managing editor of the Tribune, clarified that the bathrooms were not planned as part of the development of the splash pad site. The committee focused on raising funds for the splash pad, landscaping and fencing.

“We are not opposed to having restrooms nearby — it just was never part of our project,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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