Port-a-potty, outdoor john, mobile commode: these plastic palaces go by many names, but they're usually flush with negative images. So why does Brookfield resident Stuart Edson want two in his backyard?
"People are doing their business in a wetland and it's leaching right into the pond," Edson said.
Edson's property abuts Sunset Lake and the town's historic Floating Bridge. The summer hot spot attracts hundreds. Yet there aren't any public restrooms. Edson says when nature calls people are using his wooded lot to relieve themselves.
"Happens to be my land. And I'm kind of sick of this well worn path onto my property for people to use that," Edson said.
His frustration and sanitation concerns translated into a ballot item for Brookfield. Town Meeting Day voters were asked if they would approve two portable toilets for either end of the bridge during summer months at a cost $1,800.
"I don't think there's really any disagreement in the town that we need bathrooms! That's pretty simple. But it is a historic site," said Joy Kacik of Brookfield.
And with only one other floating bridge in the country, residents like Kacik don't want Brookfield's to lose its charm.
"We want it to look as picturesque as it does right now," she said. "So, I think the controversy is really what's a port-a-potty going to look like?"
"They come in different colors. I was going to go for the flamingo pink color," Edson said to laughter.
Joking aside, some voters asked if the toilets could be disguised, while others worried about vandalism. In the end, the 112 attendees compromised on one port-a-potty not to exceed $900 on the bridge's west side.
"It just won't be as convenient for some people," Edson said, "but it serves the purpose so I'm happy with the outcome."
For the last five years, only pedestrians have been allowed to cross the bridge. In 2008, VTrans deemed it unsafe for vehicles. But next year the state plans to rehab the 330-foot floating structure in an effort to reopen it to traffic.
"People come here to vacation because they want to see that," Kacik said. "There is still value to that."
Residents say prettier potties combined with the $5.2 million reconstruction will put this tiny town back on the map.
The project was not high on VTrans' to-do list until the state learned the bridge was actually a historic landmark. Preservation law requires that it remain open. The renovation price tag has nearly doubled since last summer with its flotation accounting for half of that cost.
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