By Chris Frost
Oxnard--The Finance & Governance Committee, July 28, approved the purchase of prefabricated self-cleaning and flushing automatic restrooms for future park projects unanimously.
Prefabricated restrooms will be the new city standard is it moves forward with future projects as they replace or add new restrooms with a minimal footprint.
The city chose APT Exeloo, a prefabricated restroom company for $214,739. They outbid the Public Restroom Company, which are also prefabricated restrooms and cost $247,884. A build-in-place standard cinder block restroom costs 448,000.
The Parks and Recreation ad-hoc committee supported the item.
Oxnard has 36 park restrooms in the city that are maintained by public works. The general fund pays for upkeeping 27 of those restrooms while nine get funded by assessment districts.
Most city restrooms are built with cinder blocks, but they do have two prefabricated restrooms in service—two in the general fund and two in the assessment districts.
The city has two full-time employees maintaining those restrooms who open, clean and stock them. The special district's contract with City Corps that provides maintenance.
Assistant Public Works Director Brian Yanez presented the item to the committee and said because of Covid-19, the city restrooms are closed.
While researching this item, he said they looked into prefabricated and build -in-place facilities.
Project Engineer Jim Nelson did the research.
"He looked at the features and what fit the City of Oxnard best," Yanez said.
Prefabricated restrooms have a low cost and offer an easy installation. They don't require detailed design plans or architectural drawings.
"Due to the high cost of the build-in-place facilities, we did not look into them any further," he said. "We stopped at prefabricated."
The Exeloo Jupiter restrooms have more features, he said, that will benefit the city in the long run.
"They have automated sliding doors with time limits and are self-cleaning," he said. "They have operational efficiencies and a three-in-one washbasin. We as a staff said this would make a difference in our operational needs and our budget.
If the city needs to relocate a prefabricated restroom, they can do that easier, whether that means in its current park or at a different park entirely.
"The automated washdown system with disinfecting water spray after 30 uses is a good feature we like," he said. "There is surface dry with high-pressure fans before the next user enters."
The electric door set, which locks the units at night, takes a large burden off the city staff.
"These exeloo systems can be pre-functioned to open in the morning at a certain time and close at a certain time in the evening," he said. "They are also programmable, so you can have a 10-minute occupancy to prevent unwanted activities."
With a 10-minute limit, the user will get warnings at eight and nine minutes and open at 10 minutes.
The Exeloo meets the Ventura County Covid-19 protocol, so they can open during the pandemic.
"That means daily cleaning and two other visits to wipe down the restrooms in high-frequency locations," Yanez said.
The restrooms have a three-inch connection from the toilet to the sewer, which eliminates some of the clogs.
Installation is a separate cost and will be done on a project basis.
"Right now, we have two projects in design," he said. "There is one a Community Center East Park and Pleasant Valley Park," he said. "We are waiting to purchase those restrooms."
During public comments, Pat Brown said the public restrooms in the city are in terrible condition.
"They need the automatic feature for all of them, not just the new ones," she said. "The new ones will come once every three, four, or five years. You ought to go out and take a look at all the restrooms."
Committee Member Bryan MacDonald said he talked to Mr. Nelson about using them in Community Center Park, which is in his district, and, at first, he felt skeptical.
"I look at the restroom we took out of Wilson Park, and we put in a restroom facility that I wasn't real keen on it, to begin with," he said. "After we put it in, I was less keen on it. I sat down with Mr. Nelson, looked at it, and he did his homework. By the time we walked away, I had thought this is probably the way we should be going. It's phenomenal and has much less of a sticker shock compared to what we've been building over the years."
Committee Member Tim Flynn said it's amazing to him the time the staff and Parks and Rec put into the item.
"Restrooms in parks today are used for completely different reasons than the restrooms built 40-60 years ago," he said. "We had a homeless problem 40 years ago. We had one guy who walked around, and I served at his funeral as an altar boy. It was rare that someone homeless was in the park using a restroom."
Today, he said park restrooms are different, as people bath in the sink and do other things.
"Illicit activities can and do take place in the restrooms," Flynn said. "There was a restroom at Plaza Park, and there were issues with that restroom."
He thinks the self-cleaning and locking restroom is a Godsend.
"Councilman MacDonald and I get an email from the same person, and anytime the restroom is not locked at dusk, we get an automatic email," he said. "The fact that these will lock themselves. Most importantly, Roger Pourier, chair of the Parks and Rec Committee, went down to see the restroom, used by the homeless in North Hollywood, said it didn't smell. This is a win-win situation."
Chairman Bert Perello said he loves the item, but noted that anything one human could make, another human can destroy.
The restroom is made in New Zealand, and he's concerned about replacement parts if needed.
"If someone is in the restroom taking care of business, and the door opens up, but don't get out," he said. "Then the door locks until the next day. How do we prevent that?"
He also asked if the restrooms have wooden roofs because he worries about people with bad intentions burning them.
Yanez said the restroom has a sensor, so it won't lock until that person leaves.
"I won't say it won't catch fire, but the material used is as flame retardant as possible," he said. "We can program cleaning the restrooms after so many flushes. These units come with steel bowls, but we're working with parks and rec to provide a porcelain lid. The sink will be low-cavity, so it hopefully eliminates the users using it as a laundromat."
The item moves to the full council for approval.