ATLANTIC CITY — If they are lucky, visitors walking on the Boardwalk or visiting Gardner’s Basin can find a functional public restroom.
Many times they can’t, because one or more of the city’s eight public restrooms in the popular tourist spots are closed due to plumbing or other problems, said Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Executive Director Matt Doherty at the October meeting.
The CRDA’s Special Improvement Division, which cleans the restrooms, “has had to close (some of) the bathrooms they are in such bad condition. They have had to bring in porta-johns,” Doherty said at the October meeting, where the CRDA board voted to give the $4.7 million project preliminary approval.
The project will have to come back before the board with more detail before final approval.
“No one can say the last time they were actually renovated,” Doherty said. “They get a lot of usage. If we want to portray ourselves as a family destination, one of the simple things we have to have is bathrooms.”
Board Chairman Bob Mulcahy said SOSH Architects estimated the cost based on updating the interior and doing some underground work, and said it would take six to 18 months to complete the work in phases.
Mulcahy said CRDA will seek financial help on the project from casinos, the city and county.
“My wife used to judge a home by how the bathroom was kept,” said longtime resident Bill Cheatham, who attends almost every CRDA meeting to advocate for returning the beach and Boardwalk to the centerpiece attractions they were in his youth. “Atlantic City is a sloppy housekeeper. This is what people judge you by ... and you are being judged pretty bad, Atlantic City.”
At the same meeting, the board voted to increase the amount it will spend on architectural services through December 2020 from $250,000 to $350,000, to cover the cost of the architectural work on the bathrooms.
Board member Debra P. DiLorenzo, president & CEO at Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, asked what the ancillary costs would be for underground plumbing work, and CRDA’s Director of Project Implementation and Management Tom Meehan said that hasn’t been determined yet.
“Not at this point, we are meeting with the sewer company,” Meehan said. Lateral taps to the sewer infrastructure were not included in the SOSH estimate, he said.
“Has any thought been given to starting with a clean slate?” asked board member Ed Gant. “Renovation sometimes costs more (than new construction).”
Doherty said such decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis.
“Some are beat up, and some are like fortresses outside,” Doherty said.
“We should at least look at it,” Gant said.
Meehan said he would.
“We are at the beginning phases,” Meehan said.