“Million dollar” bathroom divides Tonawanda taxpayers


CITY OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — You could do a lot of things with a million dollars. Repave a road. Add sidewalks. Make over a park. Tonawada city leaders chose to fix-up part of their downtown district by building a bathroom and creating a park called the “Intermodal Hub.”

The facility provides a place for cyclists, walkers, and even downtown shoppers to stop and rest.

The Concept

Mayor Rick Davis tells News 4 he came up with the concept for the hub. “This part of our downtown, it looked like a warzone. We had to do something here. It was either repave a parking lot at $1.4 million, or do what we did and spend $200,000,” Davis suggested.

The “Hub” sits on a prime piece of property on Young Street. “We have four major bike paths that intersect within a quarter of a mile of the Hub. You have the creek – the canal – the river – that really come together quite nicely with the bike paths,” Davis noted.

The hub came complete with sidewalks radiating like bicycle spokes from the central bathroom.

A million dollar mix of city tax money and grants paid for the project. It included tearing out old building foundations, installing landscaping, and yes, building the new bathroom.

It’s certainly not lavish, but it is clean, and it offers lockers for cyclists.

“It’s a great facility. It’s just something that we’ve needed,” Cyclist John Dunn commented as he stopped in during a recent ride.

“We have miles and miles of bike paths, especially coming from Buffalo, to this point here where there’s not even a port-o-john,” Dunn told News 4.The Opposition

The million dollar toilet. That’s what the Mayor Davis’ opponent Tim Toth says people call the bathroom. We reached out to him to get his insights.

Toth doesn’t like the end result or the price tag. “We didn’t get everything that I thought we were going to get here.”

Toth was on the city council that voted for the project. He tells News 4 he thought the project would be larger. “According to the ideas and concepts that we’d gotten, I was under the impression that the entire footprint was going to be done from Young Street to Broad Street. Repaved, landscaped and the parking lot reworked.”

Toth provided News 4 with the following cost analysis which he says he obtained from the city treasurer:$  80,000Greenway Design Grant$325,000CDBG$425,000Greenway Construction Grant$100,000NYS Dormitory Authority Grant$253,000ECWA Waterline Reimbursement$300,713Cost to city Taxpayers

Mayor Davis disputes the totals. He responded saying, “[Toth] is including the ECWA water line money which is a project that would have occurred whether the Hub was there or not. They’ve wanted to replace that water line for years, but held off once they received word that we were going to build the Hub and did both projects simultaneously.”

Mayor Davis also says the larger totals include “soft costs” associated with the construction. Davis puts the total spending at just over a $1 million dollars.

“Would I pay a million dollars to put a toilet into our downtown business district? Probably not. Now looking back at it,” Toth concluded.

Mayor Davis says the end result is a lot better than a parking lot. “I’d call it a very creative solution, and I’d do it all over again.” The mayor calls the hub “step one” of a waterfront revitalization plan.

Bottom line — the bathroom isn’t going away. Cyclists like Dunn plan to keep using it. “If you’re gonna spend money on something, I always think it’s good to spend it on something that people are going to use, and I think people will use this. It’s not going to make anyone any profit, but it just improves quality of life all over. i think we need more of it,” Dunn said,

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