A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Back on council agenda: portable toilets

Written March 18th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The portable toilet outside First Christian Church downtown on Thursday afternoon.

Once again, portable toilets are on the agenda of the Albany City Council. And if the council wants to keep allowing the one that sits outside the First Christian Church downtown, it may have to change the municipal code.

The congregation offers a free community meal on Thursday nights, with people picking up take-out food from tables outside. In 2018 the church placed a portable toilet on the back corner of its building after human waste was becoming a problem on the grounds, which include a preschool.

The city code, though, prohibits portable toilets except at construction sites and special events, and then only temporarily. After several discussions, the council agreed to make an exception for the church, and the city issued First Christian a permit in November 2019.

The church has asked for the permit to be renewed. But in the meantime, city staff concluded that the municipal code doesn’t allow permits like this after all.

They discovered a council resolution on the subject from 1982. And that language, according to the staff, authorized one-year permits not to connect to the sewer system only to give homeowners more time to change from septic tanks to the city sewer system.

So now what? In a memo to the council for the regular meeting on Wednesday, March 23, Public Works Director Chris Bailey suggests that council members consider amending the code if they believe changes are warranted.

Such an amendment presumably would cover not just the case of First Christian Church but also include coffee kiosks set up in Albany parking lots. Last September, the city ordered at least one such business to get rid of its portable privy, which was for use by employees, not the public.

The code change should also spell out why portable toilets are allowed in city parks, even where sewer connections are available or could be constructed. You’d think that a prohibition on something for the sake of “public peace, morals and safety” (the title of the relevant section in the code) would treat public and private property the same. (hh)

11 responses to “Back on council agenda: portable toilets”

  1. Al Nyman says:

    Do you want homeless people to do it in the bushes or in a portapotty? Seems like an easy choice to me but politicians never do what’s right. The cost to the city is negligible if you consider the money wasted on Cara!

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “public peace, morals and safety”

    Now there’s a quaint phrase that cannot be defined IMHO…

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Add “blight” to your list.

      Undefinable, but used by councilors like you as a justification to spend public money.

  3. John. Hartman says:

    It’s hard to see how, if the Council were to approve the installation of a porta potty on the grounds of a church, that the ruling would not be in direct conflict with separation of church-state. One can imagine a flood of porta-potty applications being contested by this or that religious organization.

    The Right’s biggest fear … the slippery slope … seems apropos.

    Better the City build and maintain a “real” Secular bathroom facility in the downtown, available to all regardless of religious belief or lack thereof. The dude who buzzes about all day on that zippy Three-Wheeler Parking Enforcement cart could be tasked with maintaining the bathroom’s cleanliness and the City would get more value for the taxpayer’s dollars without violating the US Constitution. A win-win!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Inasmuch as the church does not discriminate for usage, I don’t perceive any conflict whatsover. Moreover, no city funds are involved…

    • centrist says:

      Most folks misconstrue the separation of church and state.
      One of the things that drove folks from their homes to North America was that they did not agree without having to join a State-established religion.
      Allowing a group to have a portapot for reasons of public health and decency is NOT a religious activity.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      I doubt the church excludes people from using the toilet because they don’t hold the proper beliefs. Typical LIB trying to start a fire when none exists.

      • George Pugh says:

        I’m pretty sure I saw the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live or Laugh-In (I don’t remember which) standing guard outside the toilet.
        But then, my eyesight is getting as bad as my memory.

    • Al Nyman says:

      So when they put them in Bryant Park, that’s OK but not at a church or a private residence? As always you amaze me.


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