Port of Port Townsend mulls adding security to public showers at Boat Haven

By Charlie Bermant, February 4, 2015, Peninsula Daily News

The Port of Port Townsend is facing a dilemma about the public bathrooms at the Boat Haven in Port Townsend.


Officials are considering whether to heighten security or allow the bathrooms to operate as they have for years: as a place where anyone in the county can get a hot shower.


“It’s a very tough situation and something we’ve been wrestling with for about five years,” Deputy Port Director Jim Pivarnik said.


“The conflict is, how do we provide a balance between making restrooms available and providing security for our tenants?”


Pivarnik said the port has received complaints from moorage tenants about the number of homeless people and a threatening atmosphere.


No incidents have been reported.


The restrooms are available around the clock but kept locked between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.


During that time, they are accessed by a numeric code supplied to tenants and changed every month.


This doesn’t provide much security, Pivarnik said, because the codes are passed around and the doors propped open at night.


The result, he said, is that those who aren’t tenants can access the facilities at any time.


The matter likely will be addressed along with other topics at an upcoming port commissioners’ retreat from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Inn at Port Ludlow, 1 Heron Road in Port Ludlow.


Pivarnik said he and Port Director Larry Crockett will probably advocate leaving the situation unchanged.


He said Commissioners Pete Henke and Brad Clinefelter have expressed a desire to increase security while Commissioner Steve Tucker favors the status quo.


Henke and Clinefelter did not answer calls for comment Wednesday.


“We’ve essentially become the place for the great unwashed of Jefferson County to wash,” Tucker said.


“There are a lot of restrictions at other places locally, so this is a useful place for a lot of people who don’t have anywhere else to go.”


The showers aren’t monitored, but estimates based on $21,000 collected indicate about 10,000 users per year, Pivarnik said.


The men’s and women’s facilities each have three private showers, two regular and one handicapped, which require 50 cents for three minutes of water.


The restrooms, which Pivarnik describes as “clean, functional and industrial,” are maintained at an annual cost of about $8,000.


One option to increase security is to install a keycard entry for the facilities, with cards distributed to port tenants instead of the less-secure codes.


Pivarnik said this option would be both expensive and ineffective because tenants would still leave doors open for unauthorized people.


Another option is to convert the adjacent laundromat into more-secure restrooms for tenants, leaving the current facilities as is.


That option, Pivarnik said, is estimated to cost about $40,000 and would still require a keycard installation.


Some access by nontenants is necessary, such as fishermen who use the boat ramp, a port facility, and need to wash off salt, Pivarnik said.


Tucker said the showers also are used by joggers and cyclists who are looking for a place to clean up without having to go home.


Both Pivarnik and Tucker said the Boat Haven facility compares favorably with public showers they have used at parks throughout the state.


“I can see both sides of this,” Pivarnik said.


“If it were easy to figure this out, we would have done it years ago.”


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