GALVESTON — When the summer tourists left the island, so did the toilets leave Hershey Beach.
The portable toilets were installed in August after a group of condominium residents began complaining about the number of beachgoers approaching their building to find facilities or, alternatively, using the dunes as a toilet.
After the complaints surfaced, the city negotiated an agreement with the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees to place the toilets and bollards at Beach Access Point No. 10. However, the agreement, which cost the city about $2,500, ran through Labor Day. After that date, the toilets were removed, but the bollards remained.
While approving the deal, the council and City Manager Michael Kovacs discussed the possibility of taking over responsibility for the toilets after Labor Day. But no decision was made on that issue.
The city did put aside money in the budget to create a beach access and facilities plan, but Kovacs said he had not planned to use the money until the spring.
“We knew that we’d probably get into the fall potentially running out of funds to really cost-effectively put porta-potties,” Kovacs told the council on Oct. 17.
Kovacs said a portion of that fund could be used to return toilets for this year, but it would cut into what could be spent next summer.
“It’s up to you all if you want to eat into that convention center surplus for some of this fall traffic,” Kovacs said. “Or we can tough it out, weather the complaints and focus on the spring.”
District 6 councilwoman Marie Robb said the crowds were still large enough that the city should maintain a presence on the beach. Robb said that she would like to see the toilets return through at least the middle of November. The council has twice delayed a decision on the toilets, as it waits for an assessment of the number of people still actually using the beach at this point in the year.
Property owners from the area acknowledge that crowds are smaller this time of year, but that doesn’t necessarily stop bad behavior.
“If it’s a super sunny day it could be 30 to 40 people,” said condo owner Joseph Yoklavich, who helped organize a campaign to get attention for the issue.
Yoklavich said the toilets were effective during the time they were installed.
“It almost completely eliminated individuals walking up to private properties,” Yoklavich said. “We saw nobody going back to the dunes to relieve themselves.”
But since Labor Day, things have regressed, he said.
“We might not have the same mass of people, but they’re back to the same patterns,” Yoklavich said.