Pricey Potty Barn…But Everyone Needs A Chamber Pot

welcome centerUpdated to reflect exact costs contributed by Woodstock Chamber of Commerce -WEB

The Town of Woodstock Selectboard last night approved a special article for Town Meeting asking voters to increase the amount they contribute for operation of the Welcome Center bathroom and information center on Mechanic Street. The article will ask for approval of $18,000,  an increase of $6,000 from the $12,000 that has been asked for and approved in the past.

According to Woodstock Chamber of Commerce Director Beth Finlayson, the increase is long overdue to help pay employee expenses — as the minimum wage has increased —  and will  bring the cost of operation for the Welcome Center up to approximately $46,000 total.

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce had asked for approval of the special article so it could have a running start in pursuing a petition to get the item on the ballot  if the Selectboard did not give its approval.

What came out of the discussion is that clearly costs for operating the public restroom and information booth  — that includes pay for information staffers plus Town of Woodstock cleaning expenses and repairs not included in Welcome Center line items, is now running close to 50K a year.

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce is tasked with scheduling paid employees, but the building itself (now paid off) belongs to the Town of Woodstock. The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce has contributed financially to its operation in the past as part of an agreement worked out with the Selectobard. Generally, Swanson said last night the Chamber  had contributed about half the employee costs.

Finlayson said Wednesday the Chamber of Commerce will be contributing $28,000 to Welcome Center operations in the coming year.

Selectboard members Preston Bristow, Bruce Gould, Bob Holt and John Doton all shook their heads upon learning the real costs for Welcome Center operations.  Bristow wryly noted that some now could rightly say as they had warned, “I told you it was going to be an expensive operation” to build and maintain the public facility. However, the Town Selectboard at the time of the building’s construction stated firmly it did not want to have unattended bathrooms. Bristow said last night, “We can’t shut it down. It must be staffed…so this is what it takes.”

Chamber of Commerce member Jeffrey Kahn of Unicorn, who pushed hard for building the Welcome Center, said today the bathrooms have become so important not just to tourists who use them but locals who know they can find a clean, well-maintained facility while doing errands in town. He said keeping the Welcome Center going should be a priority at whatever cost as its use has grown and grown.

For the sake of discussion, Bristow did ask whether it might make sense as a cost-saving measure to put in security cameras to replace people. However, that would go against the initial Selectboard decision to have someone in the building during its operating hours. Also, Gould pointed out that really cameras are not a good idea in bathrooms. To which everyone chuckled nervously.

In other decisions made by the Board last night, it agreed to increase by one dollar the per capita cost for Woodstock Ambulance service to the area towns of Bridgewater, Pomfret, Hartland and Plymouth. These communities will now be asked to pay a per capita charge of $28 dollars.

The Selectboard also gave its annual approval to allow use of some Woodstock town roads as snowmobile routes connecting snowmobile club trails. Some of these road sections will include Grassy Lane, Academy Circle, Highway 35 and 47, Beaver Meadow and Long Hill Roads among others.

The Selectboard gave its OK once again for the Job Bank to have a special article for voters on Town Meeting day asking for $3,000 — the same as was asked for and approved last year.

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