Looming shortage of public restrooms threatens Wrightsville Beach mood


Despite a deadline before Memorial Day, Wrightsville Beach’s new public bathrooms remain unfinished, even as hoards of tourists prepare to descend on the shores this summer. (Port City Daily / Preston Lennon)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH – The business of building a free-standing public washroom near the Wrightsville Beach Central Business Center is taking longer than expected. The original deadline, set months ago, was for a completion date in early May. Now Memorial Day – which represents an inbound and sustained deluge of tourist activity – is fast approaching, and the project is still incomplete and overdue.

A toilet shortage could be on display in the coming weeks, when the city’s population and foot traffic increase dramatically. Previously, Wrightsville Beach rented public bathrooms in a retail building in the same commercial plaza. When the landlord sought to double the rent, the city canceled the lease, according to city manager Tim Owens.

So Wrightsville Beach set out to create their own washrooms. Last October, a contract was awarded to IMEC Group, LLC. The total price was $ 391,000 – with a grant from the NC Division of Coastal Management funding $ 165,000 in costs.

“Mr. Edes (the town attorney) and I spoke to the builder,” Owens said at a council of aldermen meeting last October, according to the minutes. “We told him our schedule, we really need them to do them by next May, certainly before Memorial Day. ”

The following month, the city canceled its lease for public toilets previously accessible to bathers.

This year, in January, Owens took stock. Bathrooms are “actually off the ground now,” he told the board, indicating that work had started. “With the rain, we’re probably, if I had to guess, a week off from the schedule,” he said.

By April, the outlook had become less optimistic: “They’re a little behind schedule,” Owens told the board. “We stressed to them that they had to catch up. May 17th was the deadline for them to complete. ”

The amount of space taken up by the contractor’s job site complicates the bathroom project. Several parking spaces, a resource of particular concern on Wrightsville Beach, are out of service as construction continues.

“It’s starting to get pretty crowded,” Owens said in April. “The parking lot has sort of cleared up. But anyway, so we’ll move on.

At last week’s board meeting, Owens’ assessment was further clouded: “We’re losing ground on our timing. We hope this will be done by the end of May. “

In an interview, Owens said problems with Covid-19 were the main harbinger of delays. The recent gas shortage, he added, has also done the city a disservice.

“We hope it will be done in the next two to three weeks,” Owens told Port City Daily. “There are problems with Covid, the delivery of goods because of Covid. It could be the first, second week of June at the latest. ”

The manager of a retail store near Wrightsville Beach said the lack of public restrooms has brought chaos and degeneration to the plaza.

“I have employees who go out to lunch in the courtyard, and there are people, adult men, who pee in front of children,” said the manager, who asked to remain anonymous.

They added that the store sent a request to the city manager, asking that a Rent-a-John be brought to the site, but no response was ever received. There is a Rent-a-John in the construction area, only inside the construction boundary, rather than in the public square.

“We have customers who get angry, and we have customers who pee on the side of our building,” said the manager.


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