NEWBURY — Four Plum Island businesses, overwhelmed with public requests to use a restroom, have called on the town to bring portable toilets back earlier than Memorial Day.
The portable facilities, located in Newbury at the beach center, are open to the public from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
“As you can imagine, the people who are itching to get out on nice days are coming to Plum Island,” Plum Island Beachcoma owner Greg Pugh said.
“On a day in the 70s, if you come down here, it’s packed,” he said.
Business owners used to pay for the portable toilets in the center, until the town stepped up a few years ago.
Pugh’s restaurant has restrooms, while other nearby businesses do not.
“I get inundated daily,” he said, noting that it has already started with the arrival of warmer weather.
“Especially with COVID, you can only allow so many people inside” the restaurant at once.
Pugh said he teamed up with The Cottage Island Market, Surfland Bait and Tackle, and Plum Island Provisions in asking that the town return the portable toilets to the center earlier this year – with the four businesses offering to split the cost.
The town denied the request because, according to Town Administrator Tracy Blais, the portable toilets are “problematic due to vandalism” if kept at the center sooner than Memorial Day or later than Labor Day.
She added that the Town Landing on the Parker River off Route 1A also opens about the same time.
“You have businesses that are willing to pay, willing to use the same company, willing to use the same spot,” Pugh said.
He also inquired about the property at 31 Plum Island Blvd., which the town bought in fiscal 2018 for $350,000 so it could put in public restrooms.
Blais said the Department of Public Works planned to begin renovations this winter but had to focus on “an unanticipated project when a ceiling joist snapped at the Byfield Grange building.”
“By utilizing our workforce for this project, it will save the town money,” Blais wrote in an email. “But since they have to work in between plowing and paving, we expect that it will take longer for the project to be completed.”
She added that the building commissioner and Board of Health would allow Pugh to place portable facilities in his parking lot, if he wanted.
Pugh said he thinks the portable toilets should be placed at the beach center because that’s where they are going to be by Memorial Day anyway.