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BRATTLEBORO — A lack of portable toilets downtown this summer prompted initial discussion on whether they should return.

“This year, we didn’t pull them out,” Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said at the Select Board meeting Tuesday.

Board Vice Chairman Daniel Quipp and board member Jessica Gelter said they have been approached by community members wondering where the temporary restrooms have gone.

Moreland recounted how three temporary restrooms were put out downtown in response to seemingly more frequent public urination and defecation in 2019. Groundworks Collaborative, a local organization fighting homelessness and food insecurity, initially arranged to have clients paid a stipend to clean the facilities but then the organization could no longer do it and the town took over the responsibility.

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Moreland said the restrooms were put away for the winter of 2019/2020 and it became increasingly difficult to find people to clean the facilities because better employment opportunities were opening up during the COVID-19 pandemic. A state program housed homeless individuals in local hotels and the need for the temporary restrooms diminished a bit.

The town’s custodial staff of four people responsible for cleaning municipal buildings took on the task of cleaning the facilities but Moreland said he did not feel it was fair because of their already heavy workload. He described how the temporary restrooms became “attractive nuisances” — they are said to have been used for drug activity and prostitution.

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Moreland would rather set up more permanent and durable bathrooms in downtown locations. Although illicit activities can still occur, he sees them as being easier for cleaning and managing than the portable toilets.

Board members expressed support for gathering information. Board member Tim Wessel suggested seeking public feedback on the need for public restrooms.

Having the bathrooms makes community events more accessible, Gelter said.

“That’s really important for folks who need to go to the bathroom, which is pretty much everybody,” she said.

Jon Hoover, business manager at Groundworks Collaborative, told the Reformer he’s glad the subject is coming up. As the hotel voucher program is slated to end after March, Groundworks is doing everything it can to get permanent housing for its clients.

Hoover said there’s “a real concern” that people might end up camping or living in less than ideal housing situations if the shelters are full.

“So it’s certainly on our mind for next year at this point,” he said. “I would say we’re definitely supportive of this happening again. Our motto is: ‘Basic needs met with dignity.’ And using the bathroom is a basic need, not just for people experiencing homelessness in our community but also any community member, guest to our community.”