South Beach bathrooms set for completion by June 1
WESTPORT — The proposal for a restroom facility on Compo’s South Beach that divided some town residents last year is now under construction, and set for completion by June 1.
“Mother Nature’s been wreaking havoc on us. We lost a couple of weeks because of cold weather, wind, and rain, but everything’s moving along,” Mike DiScala, president of the Norwalk-based company A.V. Tuchy Builders, Inc. that is executing the bathroom project, said at the work site Tuesday.
DiScala and his team were packing up for the day due to the wind, but the workers would return the next day to finish making the structure watertight, DiScala said.
The project will not be done for the start of the beach season on May 1, but should be complete by approximately June 1, he said.
Next week, a team will begin laying out concrete sidewalks around the bathrooms and one path from the bathroom to the beach, DiScala added.
The Representative Town Meeting approved $840,000 in funding for the ADA-compliant facility in November after a contentious debate that pit disability rights advocates against Westporters opposed to the building’s size, location and cost.
“It’s about being inclusive, it’s about making people’s lives easier, and it’s about breaking down barriers and treating everyone as equals,” Parks and Recreation Department Director Jennifer Fava said while introducing the proposal at the Nov. 13 RTM meeting.
Resident Jay Walshon was among the residents against the project.
“This is not the cost that the people want to spend and I guarantee you it’s not what the majority of the town wants,” Walshon said at the Nov. 13 meeting.
Walshon first mobilized against the plan in late summer on the grounds the facility would block the beach view from the pickleball courts, and hired a lawyer with other residents to oppose the project.
The high cost is a product of FEMA requirements for the construction of new buildings in floodplains, former Public Works Department Director Steve Edwards, who served as a consultant on the project, said on Nov. 13.
First Selectman Jim Marpe and Board of Finance Chair Brian Stern assured the town has sufficient headroom to pay for the bathrooms without endangering Westport’s AAA bond rating, through a 20-year bond that would cost each household about $5 per year. The building will likely last for 50 years or more, Marpe said.
Proponents for the facility included Jim Ross, chair of the Westport Commission on People with Disabilities, who said people with disabilities cannot currently use South Beach because of its lack of an ADA-compliant restroom and the far distance to the closest accommodating restroom.
“Inherent in the disability movement is the essence of civil rights, that forged in the heart of disability rights is the right of inclusion. ... We’re talking about the civil rights of people who currently are unable to access our beaches,” Ross said.
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