SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Members of the Caddo Parish Commission's Long-Range Planning/Special Projects Committee postponed their decision on building a fence around the courthouse and the use of an outdoor bathroom.
On Monday commissioners pointed to courthouse preservation, protester safety and more options for the homeless as the impetus for the debate over erecting a $200,000 fence or a $134,000 Portland Loo outdoor bathroom.
District 10's Mario Chavez even pointed to someone once using the courthouse grounds as a bathroom.
"With human feces on the lawn, the origination of looking at the Portland Loo and any other situation or solution has been because of that reason," he said during the meeting.
According to The Portland Loo's website, their bathrooms are "simple, sturdy, flush toilet kiosks located on sidewalks in public areas....free and accessible around the clock every day of the year."
They are billed to "give the community environmentally-friendly, clean, and safe restroom facilities."
Downtown Shreveport Development Authority Liz Swaine told the committee they reached out to other cities about the success of their public bathrooms. She urged more dialogue among commissioners before committing to any public bathrooms.
"San Diego wheels bathrooms out four days a week and they spend about $100,000 annually per unit," Swaine reported. "Seattle installed self-cleaning toilets, removed them after they proved to be a 'frequent if not constant source of complaints about public safety.' This was according to their city coordinator. You're talking about $100,000+ for installation. You're talking about ongoing maintenance and ongoing repairs, thousands more potentially each year for cleaning and this is something that may turn out to be a terrible burden to all of those businesses and buildings and entities around it."
Some Caddo residents came to the meeting divided on whether an outdoor bathroom would really help the homeless downtown or if that money should be invested in local organizations who help the homeless.
"You need to help them do more than that and just putting another place to go relieve themselves downtown is not going to put them on a higher plane," resident Brenda O'Brock told committee members.
"These guys are most likely sleeping at the courthouse because that's where they feel safest," resident John Perkins said. "The fact that there's not a bathroom is an issue that's going to go on until somebody puts a restroom somewhere that they have access to."
As far as a courthouse fence was concerned, Swaine told committee members that many local businesses are coming out against the idea.
"I sent out the e-mail to all of my downtown property owners and businesses and also asked about their input on a fence and, again, to a person, they were opposed to a fence," she said.
"A fence is not going to protect us against a speeding car. A fence is not going to protect us against bullets. When you start enclosing something in a fence, you're saying: 'We don't want you. We are keeping you out.'"
Ultimately, the committee voted to postpone any decisions on the fence or an outdoor bathroom for 90 days while they continued to gather more information on both issues.
Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator was among those in favor of the fence.