AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council voted Thursday to keep three downtown free 24-hour public toilets clean. The Downtown Austin Alliance services them and the city pays for it.
It’s a partnership that started after the city solicited for bids but did not receive any. The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation said that since the three public restrooms opened in 2020, there have been around 104,000 visits and crews have spent about 22,000 hours cleaning them.
DAA says more people use the restrooms during big events like South By Southwest. The council decision will ensure maintenance services continue once the current contract between the city and DAA expires at the end of this month.
“Everybody benefits from having accessible services like a public restroom, we all have to go to the bathroom,” said Molly Alexander, the executive director for the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation. “You know, we want to be able to wash our hands, we want to clean you know, it’s a public health issue, too.”
Austin District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo agrees.
“We have thousands of people in that area, especially the area of our entertainment district who will need to use a restroom at one point or another and this provides them with that basic resource,” Tovo said.
She helped spearhead the initial move to make the public restrooms a reality.
She is also focused on safety near one of them. A separate issue from the public restrooms but part of the partnership between the city and the alliance.
Near the Trinity Street restroom is Brush Square by 5th Street. That’s a historic area where the O. Henry Museum is and part of the downtown alliance plan also calls for keeping the downtown safe.
At present, the DAA contributes $60,000 for an overnight security guard seven nights a week at Brush Square. Tovo hopes to reexamine and potentially expand security to deal with issues museum staff have reported.
They say people are smoking on the porch of the wooden museum at night, there are overnight campers, and people are damaging the building’s exteriors and there are also reports of assaults.
“We need more security, probably than we’re providing at this point through this contract,” Tovo said. “we have the O. Henry Museum, Joseph And Susanna Dickinson Hannig Museum, and Brush Square and we want to make sure that those remain secure, that we’re protecting our investment there and that staff who are at those museums feel secure and safe, and that visitors feel welcomed to come and are also feeling safe. So that’s another part of the conversation is whether or not we can identify some funding for more security at those sites.”
Tovo said the security helps protect anyone from assaults both during and after museum hours.