Bathrooms at Four-way to be closed during Vinotok fire

Ahhhhh, the autumn scent of port-a-potties at the bonfire

by Mark Reaman

If you have to pee at this year’s Vinotok bonfire, you should easily find a place but it won’t be in the Chamber of Commerce bathrooms by the bus stop. There will instead be 10 port-a-potties strategically located around the bonfire Saturday night, September 19.

Representatives of Vinotok and the chamber debated the toilet issue for more than 45 minutes with the Crested Butte Town Council Tuesday, September 8. Ultimately, Vinotok pled poverty, the chamber pled frustration, and the council will pick up part of the tab.

“The good news is that the fire has been going really well the last few years,” said town manager Todd Crossett. “But bathrooms are an issue and the Chamber of Commerce board wants to close the bathrooms at the Four-way this year because of damage to a bathroom that occurred at last year’s Vinotok. There is a real issue when people make poor choices when they have to go to the bathroom. The chamber has an anonymous donor paying for five port-a-potties and they are asking for five more and the staff agrees that the organizers should provide five additional toilets. If council wants to relax that recommendation, we feel there should be at least three more. It was insufficient last year with just the public bathrooms at the Four-way open.”

Chamber executive director Dave Ochs said last year’s bathroom experience was bad. The men’s urinal was overflowing and despite solid Vinotok volunteer assistance, the situation was nasty. He said the line to the women’s toilets was huge and then one of the toilets in that bathroom started overflowing.

“Two months ago the bathroom was finally fixed from that event,” Ochs said. “We had to buy a new toilet for $800. The visitor experience is important to us and if these bathrooms aren’t ready to go after Vinotok, it creates a poor experience.

“I do feel an event should not stress the place it uses,” Ochs continued. “These bathrooms were definitely stressed from Vinotok.”

Vinotok spokesperson Molly Murfee said Vinotok was in a unique position compared to other events. “We try to put on an event for the community and focus on our neighbors. We see a lot of outside groups marketing Vinotok to bring in people. Because of that, the expenses associated with Vinotok rise. It used to be hundreds of dollars and now it is thousands of dollars,” she said. “It is a free event and we want to keep it free. So asking us to supply $800 in port-a-lets is a lot for us. We don’t have it just lying around. We understand the need for the bathrooms but for us it is a budget issue.”

Murfee said the town’s grant cycle deadline for fall events comes at the end of Vinotok and it is a difficult time to get together for the event organizers but they are trying to get ahead of the game for next year. Ochs reminded the organizers the town also has a spring grant application process.

“Closing of public bathrooms makes me crazy,” said councilman Jim Schmidt. “It happens at the airport and doing it here is a disservice to the community. It is a public building. The chamber is contractually obligated to oversee the bathroom at the Four-way but I understand a lot has changed since that contract was signed. As for this weekend, I think it is essential to keep the public bathroom open and also have additional port-a-potties. The town should step up to the plate and fund someone to clean the public bathrooms after the event.”

“There is a human need to fulfill and address,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “We need a pot to piss in and someone has to pay for it and no one has the budget for it. So if it falls back on the town, let’s just make a plan for next year. Dealing with bathrooms doesn’t seem like a good use of our collective time. If we use the port-a-potties, then there is no need for cleaning.”

“It is frustrating that the town doesn’t have a calculation for the need based on projected numbers,” said Murfee. “The Arts Festival puts out six but we are being asked to have ten? That seems confusing.

“There is also an aesthetic to Vinotok and we spend a lot of time on the look of the bonfire and the Grump,” Murfee continued. “To have it surrounded by a lot of port-a-potties doesn’t help. But the bigger issue is still budgetary. External organizations are bringing people to the event and it is free. We know this is one of the biggest nights for local business and sales tax.”

“We can use this year to learn how many we really need,” suggested mayor Aaron Huckstep.

“Let’s not be shortsighted,” said Schmidt. “Let’s pay for five more and keep the public bathrooms open. Closing public bathrooms really irks me.”

While councilman Shaun Matusewicz agreed with Schmidt about keeping the public facilities open, this didn’t irk the rest of the council, which agreed to pay for five port-a-potties on top of the five provided by the chamber. The public bathroom will be locked and perhaps decorated with some sort of aspen leaf barrier. Schmidt voted against the
motion.

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