Cleaning town restrooms overwhelming business

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Cleaning the public restroom has become a sore spot between Smithfield town officials and the owner of the Smithfield Ice Cream Parlor. 

Ice Cream Parlor owner Margaret Carroll said the job of cleaning the public restrooms, which are connected to her business on Main Street, has become too much for her staff. 

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“We were trying to go in there every hour, but that really wasn’t working with the employees and making subs,” said Carroll about her employees’ efforts. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Town officials, on the other hand, contend that Carroll’s staff isn’t keeping the bathroom up to Smithfield’s standards, according to a letter to Carroll from town attorney William Riddick. 

 “Filthy restrooms reflect poorly on the town and your business. The town will not permit this situation to continue as it has,” wrote Riddick. 

The issue was touched on briefly at a recent Town Council public buildings and welfare committee meeting. 

Riddick criticized Carroll for asking The Smithfield Times to attend a meeting with staff earlier last month.

It’s better that this is discussed in private, said Riddick. 

Carroll said she invited the newspaper because she wanted the public to know what was going on. 

“We’re doing the best we can. I can’t make those people (her employees) go in there every hour,” said Carroll, and listed numerous issues, such as the temperature being at 84 degrees, no paper towels available, no trash cans, and having to replace the batteries in the toilets, and then people can’t figure out how to flush, said Carroll.

“Any messes have to be cleaned up with toilet paper,” she said. 

Carroll entered into an agreement with the Town of Smithfield in 2013 that said she would take care of cleaning the public restrooms during her business hours and the town would be responsible for maintenance and repairs. 

Another issue is the door that connects Carroll’s business to the town’s public restroom. Carroll believes sealing that door would create a problem for the town in that it would eliminate an exit in the event of a fire. 

The agreement states that if the agreement were to be terminated, the cost of sealing the door would be split between the town and Carroll.

Riddick said in his letter that the town has looked into hiring a cleaning service, and it would cost $1,000 or more a month — and if hired, the bill would have to be paid by Carroll. 

Carroll said that due to the public nature of the restroom, there have been times when the cleanup effort by her staff has been extensive. 

“I have to fully sterilize myself when I come back over, change my apron, change my hat, make sure that my clothes are clean enough, because I make food. I make food. And that’s gross,” said Ice Cream Parlor manager Marian Aiden during an interview with The Smithfield Times. 

Other complaints centered on an inadequate air conditioning system, men’s toilets that don’t flush automatically and sinks that don’t work. 

The public restroom was given to the town by former Smithfield Foods President Larry Pope.  {/mprestriction}