Astoria has discovered it can use state coronavirus relief funds to improve the cleaning of the city’s restrooms through at least the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Recology Western Oregon has agreed to empty trash cans along the Astoria Riverwalk and throughout downtown more frequently to cut down on concerns of overflowing trash.
The city has been receiving regular complaints about trash and vandalism of public restrooms, especially the ones under the Doughboy Monument in Uniontown and on Exchange Street near a memorial plaque for Clark Gable.
The city’s previous bathroom cleaners wouldn’t continue the contract for even double the money because of feces, syringes and vandalism. The new contractor wanted more than three times as much money for the same scope of work.
The city scaled back services to cleaning just the downtown and Doughboy restrooms three times per week for more than $46,000 a year. The city pays for the cleaning through the Promote Astoria fund, which is financed by lodging taxes.
“We’ve definitely received plenty of feedback that there have been some issues (about) three times a week not being adequate to keep the downtown restrooms and Doughboy at a level of cleanliness that we would all prefer,” said Jonah Dart-McLean, the city’s parks director.
The contractor, Associated Cleaning Services, provided a quote of around $11,000 to clean the two bathrooms five times a week instead of three, September through December. The increased cleaning services would be reimbursed by state coronavirus relief funds the city has been utilizing to cover staff time and other expenses such as laptops for people working from home.
“This opportunity for enhanced cleaning, for public health, is one of the categories under the Treasury guidelines that we can draw down on,” said Susan Brooks, the city’s finance director.
The state reimbursements only last until the end of the year. At that point, City Manager Brett Estes said, the city will need to take a look at how much tax revenue it’s taking in, whether the state will extend virus relief and decide whether it wants to continue the enhanced cleaning.
The city had also hoped a state parks grant it applied for would help pay for a new Portland Loo-style bathroom on the Riverwalk to provide more options while cutting down on vandalism. But with the state lottery funds that back the grants plummeting amid the pandemic, new projects have been postponed, Dart-McLean said.
“They made the announcement in the spring and subsequently said, ‘Yeah, we’re very sorry, and we’ll continue to be looking at ways we can restart that program. But we don’t have a date at this time,’” he said.