West Haven orders timer-controlled locks for busy beach bathrooms
The city has ordered timer-controlled locks for the heavily-used bathrooms at Old Grove Park along the Savin Rock shore that will eliminate the need for city workers to come unlock or lock the facilities on weekends, Mayor Nancy Rossi said Friday.
Many shorefront walkers have been irritated by the closed bathrooms, although other West Haveners understand have said that with the city trying to dig its way out of chronic deficits, sacrifices need to be made.
“We have ordered them,” Rossi said of the new locks, which also can be locked or unlocked via a mobile telephone app. “I don’t know when they will come in ... but we’re looking to get it done within a week to 10 days.”
The city even has had at least two residents pay the $2,210 cost to buy and install the locks, Rossi said.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” she said. “I just thought that was wonderful.”
West Haven also is working to have the bathrooms cleaned and maintained on Sundays by Public Works employees who already are being paid overtime by a soccer league to open Veterans Memorial Field, but who aren’t working the entire time they’re being paid for, Rossi said.
The city is pursuing the solution in the wake of widespread complaints that the bathrooms have recently been locked on Saturdays and Sundays.
Rossi has said the bathrooms have been closed because of the city’s fiscal difficulties and union rules that require overtime payments for a set minimum amount of hours just to get workers to unlock the doors.
That translates to 12 hours of pay on Sundays, when workers are paid double-time and 9 hours pay on Saturday, when they are paid time-and-a-half.
Portable toilets have been installed nearby instead, but not all residents want to use them.
Rossi has said it costs the city $125 a month to rent a standard portable toilet or $145 to rent a handicapped-accessible unit and have them cleaned three times a week, versus about $2,000 a month to pay union employees to open and maintain the bathrooms.
Under the union contract with Local 681 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the city is barred from hiring any kind of temporary or seasonal workers any time it lays off workers, Rossi has said.
This spring, a total of 11 Local 681 workers lost their jobs as a result of budget cuts and other efforts to reign-in expenses, said Local 681 President Erik Peterson. In addition, union members are being asked for one-day furloughs on June 29 as a cost-saving measure.