Friday, September 16, 2005

Nowhere to Go

Closed for Season II

I've posted some of my email correspondence with Grand Rapids City Commissioners and bureaucrats regarding the lack of restroom access at Aberdeen Park. Enjoy.

My original email:

From: Robert Harrison
Cc: "Thompson, Arnetta"
Tue, Aug 30, 2005 at 11:00 AM

Dear Commissioners and City Staff:

I'm the girls tennis coach at Creston HS and we need your help. The GR Parks Dept. has closed the restrooms at Aberdeen Park for the season and we no longer have restroom access. Our tennis season runs until Oct. 6 however. As it stands now, I have to tell my players and our opponents to go to the Burger King on Plainfield if they need to use the restroom.

My athletic director (Arnetta Thompson) and I asked Tom Zelinski in the GR Parks maintanence department if we could have a key to open the restrooms just for practice and on games days but he says he doesn't have the budget even for that little use. Looking at our schedule, we only have 21 more days of practice or games at Aberdeen and I estimate only one or two girls would use the facilities on each day. Is there anything you can do to help? I am willing to keep the restrooms cleaned if that will help with the budget.

Sincerely yours,
Coach Robert Harrison

Parks Dept. Director of Maintanence Tom Zelinski's response:

Wed, Aug 31, 2005 at 8:51 AM

Jay, et al:

In response to this note, and several inquiries from City Commissioners, I can offer the following information. I have spoken with Mr. Harrison - Tennis Coach and Athletic Director Arnetta Thompson about this request. In fact, just prior to receiving the note I had spoken with Arnetta and she was going to arrange for a porta jon to be placed at Aberdeen for the team's use.

The restroom building at Aberdeen (and a number of other locations) was budgeted to be open only during the RRR playground program, which ended August 7. Following the end of the program the facility was shutdown. It costs our department $84 /month simply to have the water activated for the site - plus any water usage that might occur. A typical month that does not include water for the water playground, would see charges in the neighborhood of $200 - which does not include staff to clean and supplies. A porta jon can be rented for $60/month.

There are quite a number of sites where the public schools, and other user groups, have sports activities but do not have restroom building availability - Highland soccer, Richmond softball, Hillcrest baseball, etc. Additionally in the past I have had problems with Creston coaches having keys to the restroom building at Aberdeen and either using the facility before/after the water was activated or not locking doors and the restrooms being trashed. (Note: I am not aware of Mr. Harrison being among these individuals).

While it is unfortunate that we cannot afford to operate and maintain as many public restrooms as we have in the past, we have tried to work with user groups to find reasonable solutions within the confines of our budget. Should there be further questions please contact me.

Victor Vasquez, Asst. City Manager - Planning & Community Development gives his input:

Wed, Aug 31, 2005 at 3:06 PM

As we can all see, the number of complaints and requests for continued services that were eliminated in the FY 2006 budget is increasing as the lack of services cause inconveniences and worse. Parks staff is being challenged just to do the services that remained in the budget. Attempting to somehow add some of these requests onto the workload will ultimately result in complaints when we fail to provide the services that the City committed to continuing.


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