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Council postpones Portland Loo contract vote

Lawsuit over water and sewer spending worries Saltzman

The City Council postponed considering a contract to market its free-standing public toilets to other cities after an attorney representing water and sewer rate payers questioned how it would be funded.

Water Commissioner Randy Leonard has introduced an ordinance to allow a number of people involved in the early stages of designing the so-called Portland Loos to market them to other cities. The ordinance had an emergency clause, meaning the council could consider and approve it at a single hearing.

But Commissioner Dan Saltzman asked that the emergency clause be removed because of an ongoing lawsuit that accuses the water and sewer bureaus of spending ratepayer funds on projects not directly related to their core missions. The suit specifically mentions the toilets.

In fact, after ratepayer lawyer John DiLorenzo learned the council was scheduled to consider the ordinance Wednesday, he wrote the City Attorney's Office to ask that it remind the council the toilets are included in the suit.

'As you know, our lawsuit, in par, challenges all the expenditures from the Water Fund to develop and produce the Portland Loos. The Agenda item raises the Loo enterprise to yet a new level,' the letter says.

Although Leonard agreed with Saltzman's motion, he insisted the toilets are not funded with water bureau money. Instead, he said the council had agreed to spend under-restricted general fund dollars on them at his request.

The only person who testified on the ordinance contradicted Leonard, however. Floy Jones, who is among DiLorenzo's clients, cited a March 19 memo from the City Attorney's Office that says the water bureau has spent $101,436 in construction costs and $136,000 on maintenance and overhead on them over the past two years.

The city has completed and installed five of the toilets around town. According to Leonard, it has also sold one to Victoria, British Columbia. New York and San Diego have looked at them but not yet bought any.

Leonard's ordinance will be considered next week. It would allow the contractors to keep 10 percent of purchase price of any toilets they sell. The three people identified in the ordinance as contractors are: Curtis Banger of CB Design, Madden Industrial Craftsmen and Carol McCreary, principal associate with Steel Bridge, a local consulting firm.