This past weekend for the Franklin Fall Festival, the city once again paid out $1,000 for portable restrooms.
Festival attendance has hit as many as 10,000 people in prior years, so the restrooms are a necessary expense, Park and Recreation Director Chip Orner said.
Outside of small facilities at city hall, downtown doesn’t have any public restrooms available, which means visitors are often left searching for restaurants or shops for a restroom to use.
The city and Discover Downtown Franklin, a nonprofit that organizes and promotes downtown Franklin events, will rent portable restrooms during events, but for the rest of the year downtown visitors and shoppers are left to find their own restrooms.
That might change since city officials are looking into the feasibility of putting public restrooms in downtown Franklin to accommodate the crowds of people visiting for festivals and events.
“We do a lot of downtown festivals and events every year, and of course restroom facilities are an issue for any event,” Orner said.
While city hall restrooms have been opened up at times for public use, they don’t have the capacity to handle these events, Orner said. So for the Fall Festival, the city spent $1,000 on renting about 10 portable restrooms, he said.
City officials want to see if building a permanent structure would pay off in the long run. One option is modular restroom facilities, which could be built off-site and then delivered and placed on a foundation built by the city, which has been done for local parks, Orner said. He estimated building or purchasing a permanent structure could cost between $40,000 and $100,000, depending on the size and amenities of the restrooms.
While public restrooms would greatly help with city festivals and events, they would also be useful year-round, as Franklin is becoming more of a destination city, said Tara Payne, the executive director of Discover Downtown Franklin.
“Shops are busy all year round,” she said.
However, businesses that do have restrooms available to the public can use that as another means to get people in the door, Payne said.
“At the same time, everybody in downtown understands that getting people in their door is the biggest challenge,” she said.
Some of the advocates for downtown restrooms are students on the recently formed Mayor’s Advisory Committee. About a dozen students from Franklin Community High School have been meeting since June to discuss what could be done to improve Franklin.
Among several items they’re considering proposing to the city council is having downtown restrooms, said Franklin Community High School junior Emma Beavins.
Public restrooms would make the downtown area more welcoming and attractive to visitors, she said.
Though public restrooms aren’t on the immediate agenda for the city council, it isn’t something he would oppose further down the road, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.