NEW FOR TUESDAY: Downtown Comfort Station Headaches Continue

NEW FOR TUESDAY: Downtown Comfort Station Headaches Continue
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Rendering by David Quillin

OCEAN CITY – The new Caroline Street Comfort Station completion date has been delayed once again due to wet weather, but the resort is continuing efforts to ensure comfortable and clean temporary facilities.

The old underground Caroline Street Comfort Station was demolished last December and a projected completion date for the new facility was set for May. Due to inclement weather, by the time May rolled around it was obvious the restrooms would not be done in time and the completion date was pushed back to the end of June.

At that time, the Mayor and City Council approved the temporary solution of Royal Restrooms. The facilities were located immediately next to the construction site on Caroline St. and included 10 men and female stalls and two ADA stalls. The restrooms were trailer mounted and plumbed with running water.

A couple of weeks ago, the city began to receive complaints as foul odor began to rise from the temporary restrooms, especially when the facilities holding tanks were being pumped out and emptied. Based on the increasing number of visitors on the Boardwalk as the summer progressed, the pumping process had to take place a couple times a day.

Prior to last week’s holiday weekend, the trailer restrooms were replaced with several rows of port-o-johns, which increased the number of stalls, and ultimately decreased the impact.

“The trailer setup just didn’t prove to be compatible or able to empty out into the system fast enough so now we have more stalls and we are making sure those are cleaned out and pumped out as often as necessary to avoid any problems,” Mayor Rick Meehan said on Monday.

This week City Engineer Terry McGean explained the ongoing wet weather has made it difficult for the stages of concrete work to get underway. Basically the entire building, from the foundation to the walls, is made of concrete but with the majority of the concrete completed at this point the building is close to completion.

“They [contractor Black Diamond Builders] are working as fast as they can,” McGean said. “I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the building to rush it. The famous philosophy is everyone may be upset right now with it opening late but three years from now nobody will remember it opened late but if the quality is bad that will still show. We want to make sure it is done as quickly as possible but we also want to make sure it is done right.”

As of Monday, construction had reached a point where remaining items to reach completion were a couple of concrete columns, finishing the framing of the roof and the installation of plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, doors and windows.

Nonetheless, along with the odor issues of last month, complaints over major construction work being done in the peak season on the Boardwalk in front of retailers paying prime rent prices continue to be heard.

“We seem to be hearing less complaints. The temporary trailers, while they had running water they just didn’t have the capacity and we kept having overflow and odor issues with them, so the port-o-johns seem to be working out better,” McGean said. “The plan is to keep those until we can open the restrooms. We are concentrating on getting the restrooms done as quickly as possible even though the stage may not be ready.”

The Caroline Street Performing Arts Stage and Comfort Station has been a long time in coming. The Mayor and Council wrestled with several design concept before finally approving Architect David Quillin’s final revision last July. Due to council concerns, the barrel-vaulted roof was changed to a gable roof, the fabric awning over the stage was also changed to a gable roof and the end porches and stage were changed to have exposed wood trusses with bow bottom-chord.