CONWAY — Selectmen on Tuesday decided against having bathrooms and porta-potties at the Whitaker Homesite for skiers and are now thinking about public options for people who need to go in North Conway Village.
The issue of bathrooms has come up frequently since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the valley in March because the cleaning requirements shut down facilities that otherwise would be open such as those at the New England Ski Museum.
Town Manager Tom Holmes and Recreation Director John Eastman voiced safety concerns about opening the Whitaker Homesite building this winter especially since Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring no longer needed the building for cross-country ticket sales as it is going with an online system instead.
This week, selectmen formally decided to close the building to the public but not shut it down since winterizing would cost more than simply keeping the heat running.
Eastman said the cost of shutting off the electric and heat would cost about $1,400 and the cost of keeping it on from December to the end of March would be at most $1,100. Selectmen also decided to close the warming hut at the skating rink.
A majority of the board — John Colbath, Mary Carey Seavey and Carl Thibodeau — also voted down a motion made by Selectman Steve Porter to have porta-potties near the Whitaker building. However, Colbath said he didn't want the conversation to end there.
“The town needs to be working on acquiring a piece of property in the North Conway Village area for public services,” said Colbath. “I think we need to work with large property owners in the area to see if we can come up with a win-win situation.”
Town Manager Tom Holmes said Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, had asked him two weeks ago when such a discussion would take place.
The North Conway Village Fire Precinct building on Seavey Street could be one such possibility, said Holmes, adding that the precinct is getting a new fire station. The Seavey Street building is generally used for storage.
“I’m just thinking of public buildings already existing,” said Holmes.
Porter said his father, Robert Porter, is a North Conway Water Precinct commissioner. He said his father said he would ask the other precinct officials their opinion but has not gotten a response yet.
Seavey said Seavey Street would be a better location for public bathrooms than the Whitaker Homesite, which is at the northern end of the village.
“I think we should keep Whitaker Woods off of the radar,” said Seavey. I'd hate to see that nice little spot turned into something like that.”
Colbath added that there are also a couple of commercial properties that might be used as rest areas.
The Sun asked if it would be helpful to have bathrooms as a Tele-Talk question. Holmes suggested and selectmen seemed to agree that a possible question could be “Where would you like to see public bathrooms in North Conway Village?”
North Conway Water Precinct Jason Gagnon said to his knowledge and the topic of bathrooms at the Seavey Street building has not been discussed by commissioners.