August 27, 2013

The Westgate Mall in Carroll could have public restrooms in time for Christmas shopping.

Carroll City Council members Monday signed off in principle on a plan structured by Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers to construct the restrooms with up to $56,000 in city money - and long-term-maintenance costs handled by an association of merchants in the mall.

Roger "Chico" Kanne is donating about 700 square feet of space that Graphic Edge is vacating to consolidate its retail-and-outlet operations at the former Maurices in the west end of the mall.

"I think it's a project that Carroll needs," Kanne said. "I'm excited about doing it. We've got everything the way it should be. I think this is one of the last pieces of the puzzle."

Construction of the restrooms - which Schweers said would be similar in style to the ones at Carroll's Pizza Ranch ("very nice looking" with an "open floor plan similar to high schools" in his words) - would cost an estimated $53,000 to $56,000.

Regular maintenance costs are estimated at $5,200 and likely would be handled through a New Hope Village program. Total annual materials estimates range from $9,000 to $10,000, the mayor said. Funding of the maintenance will come from downtown retailers, under the proposed plan.

Badding Construction provided designs for the facilities free of charge.

Carroll Rotary Club, a not-for-profit, would be the long-term sponsor of the restrooms and serve as the actual recipient of city construction funding. Rotary will seek bids on the project, which Badding Construction president Nick Badding estimated would take 30 to 45 days to complete. The service organization plans to cobble together about $10,000 from its own members and through other donations to "spark plug" the project, said Schweers, a former president of Carroll Rotary.

Carroll County State Bank has agreed to place an ATM in the public-restroom area and split the proceeds with the Mall Association to assist with maintenance.

Michael Loehr, owner of Loehr's Jewelry, said customers often ask about the availability of restrooms. Loehr said some shoppers have gone so far to say they aren't coming back to the mall because of the absence of public restrooms.

"I think it's highly needed," Loehr said.

Tom Langel, owner of Good News Book & Gift Store, said the former Sernett's used to house the public restrooms because the department store wanted to draw more customers with the facilities.

"This really is a project that I think would help the downtown as a whole," Langel said.

Councilman Jeff Scharfenkamp said in light of downtown Carroll's role in local-option sales-tax collections the outlay for the restrooms is modest.

Councilwoman Carolyn Siemann stressed the cooperative effort.

"This is a really an impressive team effort," Siemann said.

Council members soon will consider a formal agreement with Rotary and other parties involved in the development.

Several merchants at the council session urged elected officials to have the restrooms in place before the Christmas shopping season. Schweers said he believed that was possible.