Million Dollar Beach Comfort Stations Coming Next Summer

Image courtesy Guild Hardy Architects
Image courtesy Guild Hardy Architects

BILOXI (WLOX) -- Beach visitors this summer will have to use portable toilets again.

Plans to rebuild the comfort stations along the beach have been in the works for well over a year. But the project has been delayed by elevation issues, insurance questions and most recently a lack of funding.

Only a few wooden pieces remain of the old beach comfort station near the coast coliseum.  It will be rebuilt, along with six others, but not finished until next summer.

Current plans call for the restroom buildings to cost $1.2 million each. But there's a reason for the seemingly high price tag.

A concrete slab is the only reminder of the mostly wooden comfort station that once stood on the east side of Gulfport harbor. But imagine a new, mostly concrete structure taking the place of the old beach restroom.

The director of CTA calls the newly designed bathroom bunker, "Katrina proof."

"And we feel like being responsible with the taxpayer's dollars. Based on a history, as we know it, we need to put something down there that will withstand that tidal surge. And that's our design, our current design will do exactly that," said Kevin Coggin, who directs the Coast Transit Authority.

Coggin says the newly designed comfort stations are not only durable, but attractive. They're "Florida style", but mostly pre-cast concrete.

"Stucco. Terra cotta tile roof. The look. That's not what it is, it's colored concrete. It looks fancy, but it's really not. It's attractive, but a very durable building," he says.

The hold up now before building on the beach begins is money or lack thereof. A three million dollar gap.

"The difference between what FEMA will pay for and what we would like to do," said Coggin.

While Coggin searches for money to begin building bathrooms, the number of beach visitors continues to rise. For at least another summer season, Port-A-Potties will be the answer when nature calls.

More of the portable toilets are coming soon.

"Canvassing right now, taking a look at where the beach activity is. Get a determination how many more we're going to need for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend and we'll be making provisions to put additional port-a-lets out," said Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver.

One more summer of port-a-potties. By next season, visitors should be using new stylish, storm durable comfort stations.

"We would like to see these buildings finished by next summer," said Coggin.

The CTA director says the original plan was to rebuild the comfort stations at ground level. However, the National Flood Insurance Program refused to grant a necessary waiver.

If CTA had proceeded without that waiver, it could have had a negative impact on flood insurance rates for the entire county.

The new comfort stations will be elevated some 12 to 14 feet.  Winding ramps at each station will allow access by the disabled.