By Sally Gillie, Monitor
The long awaited public restroom that will complete the Monroe Rotary Field cleared its last financial hurdle this week.
The city council’s unanimous approval on April 2 to fund the final $127,000 needed for the project brought a loud round of applause from members of the local Rotary Club, Miracle League baseball players and other supporters who gathered at City Hall. A cake decorated with the city logo, thanking Mayor Robert Zimmerman, was presented to mark the occasion.
The Rotary Field was completed in 2009, and has been home to Monroe’s Miracle League baseball program which serves youth of all ages with special needs, not only in Monroe but throughout the Puget Sound region. The Miracle League season starts in late April and runs for seven weeks, with no games during the Memorial Day weekend. During the off-season the fully-turfed field is used by the city to host little league tournaments, and is also the home field for the Monroe High School girls’ varsity softball team.
The single porta-potty that has been the field’s only bathroom facility has presented challenges for Miracle League players like Michael Gantala and Michelle McKenzie, who addressed the council before the Tuesday night vote.
Speaking from his wheelchair, Gantala said the best day of his life was the day the Rotary Field opened in 2009, because “kids with disabilities don’t get to play on team sports, but the Miracle League gives us a team to play on.” He said a bathroom is needed because even the handicapped accessible porta-potty on the field “doesn’t work for people in a wheelchair like me. To get in there I would have to leave the door open.”
McKenzie, who was the first Miracle League baseball player to sign up to play back in 1999 and is now a coach with the nickname “Spitfire,” said the new restroom means she and her teammates won’t have to worry about the gross porta-potty. “Have you ever been in a porta-potty?” she asked the council. “We find ourselves trying not to drink very much when we’re on the field, because we don’t want to go in there.”
The new modular-design, prefab restroom will take about 90 days from ordering to installation, which means it won’t be up and running for the Miracle League season that gets underway April 27. “But we’ll be looking forward to having it there next season,” said Jody Rose, who is the special needs coordinator for the Monroe YMCA and the Miracle League program. She said when the Miracle League first came to Monroe, there were maybe 10 kids total, and they used the Sky River fields for play.
Today’s handicapped-accessible Rotary Field, located behind the East County Senior Center, has flat access and wider doorways in the dugout to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Today the program has grown to 50 participants, with games staggered according to age group. Ages 5 to 9 play at 9 a.m.; ages 10 to 16 play at 10:30; and ages 17 and older play at noon.
A public bathroom had been part of the original plans for the field, but the Rotary didn’t have the additional $177,000 needed to complete that phase; fundraising efforts by the club in the past four years have raised $50,000, and the city had set aside an additional $50,000 from its parks capital fund for the purpose.
Coming up with the additional $77,000 in funding came about through the efforts of Monroe Economic Development Manager Jeff Sax, who realized that the city could use money from its sanitary sewer capital fund for the project. “A big thanks goes to Jeff Sax for his work to make this happen,” Monroe Parks and Recreation Director Mike Farrell told the council this week.
Rotary member Tod Johnson also addressed the council at its April 2 meeting, thanking Farrell and the city staff who have joined forces with the Rotary on the bathroom project.
When the Rotary first put in the field, he said, it was all about the fundraising, and getting the state grant that made it possible for the valuable facility to come to Monroe. Over the years, it has shown itself to be a great asset to the city as the field has been used to attract other sporting events to the city. “It’s a great business case because it continues to bring economic benefit to the city,” he said.
Johnson said there are a lot of people who have been involved with the restroom project and deserve special credit, such as Ric Carlson and Greg Starup for their longtime efforts on the field’s behalf; Mark Mason, who headed up construction efforts; Ruthann Tobiason, Rotary treasurer; and Andy Kovach for his architectural and design contributions. Cadman Gravel, said Johnson, has helped not only through business contributions but also with construction materials and labor.
The new ADA compliant restroom will have three stalls in the women’s side and two stalls and a urinal on the men’s side. And as in the rest of Monroe’s city parks, the new facility will have both cold and hot water and a blow dryer for hands.
Council okays letter to end photo enforcement cameras
The city council voted 4-2 to go ahead and notify Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc. that the city will not renew its agreement for photo enforcement cameras when that agreement expires this year.
The motion was brought by Councilman Kurt Goering, who referred to last year’s election results showing seven out of ten voters objected to renewing the cameras for another term. The city’s 2007 agreement with Redflex Systems expires at the end of 2013, three years after the enforcement cameras were installed at three locations in the city.
Council members Goering, Kevin Hanford, Ed Davis and Jim Kamp voted to end the agreement. Councilman Jason Gamble was absent.
Council members Patsy Cudaback and Tom Williams cast the dissenting votes, voicing concerns that the decision to terminate the contract should be reached after a more thoughtful discussion, seeking input from the schools and the police department. As council members, they said, they have access to information the general public doesn’t, and should review that before moving forward.