Yes, there’s talk about toilets as the Jayhawks prepare for their final home game of the year. And no, it is not what you think.
How should we say it: There’s a controversy swirling, there’s a stink being raised, there’s a, well, maybe we should stop there.
In simple terms, some residents of the Oread Neighborhood are concerned about a growing trend of property owners renting portable toilets for the use of people who rent parking spaces in neighborhood yards on game day.
The problem, neighbors said, is that the toilets are left in neighborhood yards for the entire season.
“I don’t think that would go over very well in West Lawrence or many other neighborhoods,” said Candice Davis, an Oread resident. I think it is totally disrespectful.”
Mark Dale-Thompson, the portable toilet manager for Anderson Rentals, said he services 11 of the toilets that are on lawns and driveways in Oread.
He said there’s long been a few of the portable toilets in the neighborhood on game days, but he said the trend has increased significantly as crowds have grown at the stadium.
“People now start tailgating hours and hours before the game,” Dale-Thompson said. “It has become a real festive event.”
Not surprisingly, he thinks, the toilets beat the alternative, which might be known as a tree or a bush.
A few neighbors also seemed to think as much.
“I would say there are other issues that are more bothersome,” said Erin Besson, a five-year resident of the neighborhood who lives around the corner from one of the toilets. “I would rank belligerent drunks and litter higher.”
Cathy Sirimongkhon, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 15 years, also said she wasn’t overly concerned with the issue, as long as the toilets are regularly emptied and maintained. She said concerns about odor and people tipping the toilets over were her biggest fears.
Dale-Thompson said that’s his biggest concern too. He said he services the toilets shortly after the game is over and once the area clears out. (We’re talking about traffic.)
He said most of the toilets need it.
“I can tell you they are really getting used,” Dale-Thompson said.
In the category of facts you may not want to know, Dale-Thompson said a typical portable toilet at a construction job site typically has 15 to 20 gallons of “material” in it when Dale-Thompson services it once per week. The Oread toilets have about 75 gallons.
“I would guess the post-beer content of those toilets are probably higher too,” Dale-Thompson said.
The city has received at least one formal complaint about the toilet situation. City planners, though, aren’t quite sure how to respond yet. Scott McCullough, director of planning and development services, said his staff is going to have to do more research about what the city code does or doesn’t say about portable toilets.
Yes, a little bathroom reading, so to speak. (Yeah, this story really needs to end soon.)
Despite the plethora of puns, several Oread residents said the situation isn’t a laughing matter. Jerry Stubbs, past president of the Oread Neighborhood Association, said the issue came up at a recent association meeting.
The neighborhood association would like the city to take steps before next football season that would ban long-term storage of portable toilets in yards, Stubbs said. Neighbors said it would be more reasonable for people who are charging people to park in their yards to open up their home bathrooms to the parkers. Or, the tailgaters could always go to the stadium and use the bathrooms there.
Another option is for the toilets to be removed after each game. Dale-Thompson said that would significantly increase the costs parking operators must pay. He said he charges about $90 per four weeks if the toilets don’t have to be moved except at the end of the season. If they were moved after each game, it would be about $70 per week.
Neighbors, though, said they are concerned that the current practice may be costing them, especially in their efforts to have Oread perceived as an area that is fine for families in addition to students.
“I would say it just trashes up the neighborhood,” Davis said. “And come on, it’s gross.”