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Toilets part of grant request for Ninigret Park upgrades

CHARLESTOWN — The town has applied for a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) to install four composting toilets at Ninigret Park. Three of the solar-powered, handicapped-accessible toilets will be installed near the soccer field and the fourth will be at the dog park.

Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano told the council at the Nov. 12 meeting that the conventional portable facilities currently in the park are heavily used.

“It would serve the dog park, the disc gold course, and those people that would be frequenting along that road, including those people to go to that wildlife refuge. Certainly, there seems to be a lot of interest in using the existing Porta Johns there,” he explained.

The total grant is $360,000. The four composting toilets will cost $60,000 each, for a total of $240,000. The town has added a $5,000 contingency to the $55,000 base price of each toilet to cover any cost overruns.

A total of $90,000 of the grant will pay for the replacement of a tented pavilion with a more permanent 30-by-84-foot metal structure, and another $30,000 will be used to renovate the restroom at Little Nini Pond, adding heat to keep the pipes from freezing so the facility can remain open all year long.

“The intention is to add some heat inside the facility so we can maintain access during the winter,” Primiano said.

The grant is a “matching” type of funding program, and requires a 50 percent contribution from the town. The town is asking for $180,000 from the state and will contribute another $180,000. A total of $135,000 will come from the Ninigret Park Fund ,which collects the money paid by groups that rent the park for events.

“All of those events were collected over 3½ years. There’s $209,000 approximately in there at the present time,” Primiano said.

The remaining $45,000 will consist of “in kind” contributions of work. Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Tim Quillen told the council that he would recruit volunteers to do the work.

The composting toilets are like those at the Charlestown Breachway, which, Primiano said, were so sturdy that they were still standing after Superstorm Sandy.

“The only thing undisturbed was those units,” he said.

Councilor Lisa DiBello wondered whether three units would be necessary at the soccer field. “For the short season, to install $180,000 worth of toilets, could we get away with two and have people wait a minute or two to use them?” she asked.

“We based those recommendations on the state model and the number of people using the facility, so I think those are solid numbers,” Primiano replied. “There’s multiple users, and it isn’t just soccer during one part of the year. There’s soccer in the spring, and then there are events out there such as the flying disc event and we have concerts and events of that sort as well.”

Council members unanimously approved the grant application, which Primiano said had a Nov. 30 deadline.

“It was a quick turnaround,” he said, adding that he had only learned of the grant on Oct. 9. “I thank my staff for getting it done.”

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