City Hall (File photo)

The controversy over two, new public bathrooms at Clover Park had been swirling long before it reached the City Council this month. Several commissioners say they complained about the $2.3 million price tag for two buildings to house toilets long before Santa Monica’s most powerful unelected official found himself defending the cost.

“These (restrooms) will take a horrific beating over the next 30 years,” said City Manager Rick Cole, after the issue came before the City Council at their June 12 meeting.  Cole said the daily use of the facilities combined with the potential for vandalism meant the bathrooms would need to be “industrial strength.”

The construction project was the only one of fifteen consent calendar items to give the Council pause that night.  The Council quickly passed the remaining fourteen items without any discussion, including a $1 million contract for a new city website and a $336,000 five-year contract with Staples for printer paper.

Councilmember Tony Vazquez pulled the item Tuesday to ask more about the design history of the project and the estimate.  Staff recommended awarding the lowest bidder, C.S. Legacy Construction, Inc, the contract, citing construction experience with other bathrooms for Southern California cities. Another company, Calco Construction Services, bid $2.5 million for the project.

Public Works Director Susan Cline said she responded to cost concerns from both the Architectural Review Board and Recreation and Parks Commission.

“We did take the construction estimate on this project to an outside estimator so the construction numbers were validated by a third party estimator,” Cline said. “Construction costs are rising.”

The project will replace two 30-year-old facilities at Clover Park that require extensive maintenance and upgrades. Temporary restrooms will be provided for public use during construction, which is anticipated to begin this July and last nearly a year, ending by late May 2019.

Cole said the hefty price tag took into consideration the added costs of working with city government including insurance, fair wage guidelines, audit potential and OSHA requirements.

“I don’t think anybody on staff is happy about these costs,” Cole said.

Moving forward, Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said she hoped the city would consider ways to save money, including buying prefabricated buildings.

“I, for one, would appreciate at least looking at (those) as an alternative to things we design and build in view of our looming and threatening possible deficit,” Himmelrich said.

After the brief discussion, the Council unanimously voted to approve the $2.3 million contract.