Facelift for Washougal social services building

The city of Washougal’s deteriorating social services building is about to receive a facelift.

City officials have agreed to use a $700,000 state grant, a $226,500 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and $32,000 from Washougal’s coffers to fund a two-phase remodeling project for the social-services building that houses the East County Family Resource Center, which provides child and family counseling, youth programs and parent classes via its parent organization, the Seattle-based Children’s Home Society of Washington.

At their Sept. 27 meeting, Washougal City Council members approved a $47,500 contract with Vancouver-based Covalent Architecture for first-phase design work. The project’s second phase, funded by a $700,000 contribution from the Washington State Department of Commerce, will provide the facility with exterior envelope repairs, as well as a new roof, an upgraded HVAC system, interior lighting and flooring and an exterior public restroom.

“It’s going to be a great project for our community,” Washougal City Manager David Scott said during the city council’s Sept. 27 workshop. “We’re really grateful to the county program that does the CDBG and especially grateful to our legislative delegation for their big capital appropriation that they provided that’s really making this happen.”

Washougal engineer Rob Charles said the city plans to complete the project by the end of 2022.

Council members question public restroom

Washougal city councilors scrutinized the proposal for the building’s new restroom, which Charles said is planned for “transient and public use.”

“Is there a reason why this shouldn’t be just a public restroom?” Councilman David Stuebe asked Charles. “I think we have the need at Reflection Plaza for our citizens. If we’re going to do this, maybe we put it in a nice location that’s going to service folks that are downtown. I want to make sure that if we’ve got kids going in there that it’s appropriate.”

Charles said the idea is to provide a restroom for the general public, including people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s not going to have the name ‘homeless restroom’ on it, but I think we probably all know that a lot of homeless people are going to end up using it,” Charles said. “But it’s really just a public restroom.”

Several council members said they would like to see plans for a larger restroom. The proposed restroom would have two stalls, including one wheelchair-accessible stall.

“If we’re looking out into the future, like a council is supposed to do, and we think about downtown, we’re going to want public restrooms down there,” Councilman Paul Greenlee said. “Whether one (non-wheelchair-accessible) stall is enough or not, I don’t really know. But given limitations on funding, we may be limited to a single stall, in effect. If that’s the case and there’s a possibility we may go to two (non-wheelchair-accessible) stalls, then at least let’s make sure we put in the infrastructure that’s necessary to add on a second stall.”

Greenlee also questioned the proposed location of the restroom, which is currently slated to be placed in the building’s parking lot.

“I would just ask that we encourage our architects to think a little bit about where to locate this,” he said. “My only concern is that it’s basically stealing what limited parking there is for the social services building staff, and I don’t know if that’s an issue or not. I’m certainly not pounding on the table here. I just think we need to be smart about all of this.”

Charles said he will “definitely have a conversation” with the project planners to discuss the feasibility of other possible locations for the restroom.

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