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City to enforce rules for stores

Some lack required restrooms, officials say

City to enforce rules for stores

City to enforce rules for stores

Code enforcement officers will be checking to make sure that businesses required to provide public restrooms do so, Statesboro City Manager Frank Parker told City Council last week.

This led to questions about how the requirement will be enforced and whether long-established businesses are exempt.

"It has come to my attention that there's a number of businesses in town that aren't offering public toilet facilities, and we're going to start doing an investigation of that," Parker said.

He added that it is "basically state law that they have to" provide restrooms.

A regulation Parker referred to is actually part of the International Plumbing Code. City Attorney Alvin Leaphart noted that the city had adopted the international code, making it in effect part of the city's building code.

In a page from the International Plumbing Code that Parker gave council members, a section had been highlighted.

"Customers, patrons and visitors shall be provided with public toilet facilities in structures and tenant spaces intended for public utilization," it states. The code allows businesses with employee toilets to provide either separate public toilets or combined facilities for use both by employees and the public.

Councilman Phil Boyum asked what types of businesses the city plans to approach. Parker said city officials will likely start with convenience stores and restaurants "and likely branch out from that point."

One council member, Gary Lewis, said he had encountered the problem himself. He named a specific convenience store and its location where he said he had asked for the restroom and been told, "Well, we don't have one. It's private. We don't have one."

"So, I know this is a state law that you must have one," Lewis said. "This is where a lot of the problem is coming from now, convenience stores operated by the Indians or whatever we're going to call them."

At another store, Lewis said, he was told the restroom was out of order when he asked for one.

"They've got my attention, so I want them to continue to get my attention by going back and letting them know that they must do this as soon as possible because it is the law," Lewis said.

After Lewis' comments, Parker said, "We're not going to single out any specific segment of our population, but we're going to check all stores."

Boyum asked how the ordinance would be enforced and whether a business might lose its license. The restroom requirement, Leaphart said, could be enforced either through the enforcement provisions of the city's building code or by issuing a citation.

"Technically, if they're in violation of the International Plumbing Code, they're in violation of the ordinance," Leaphart said.

Mayor Jan Moore asked whether anyone is "grandfathered in" - in other words, if any businesses that existed before the requirement was adopted would be exempt. Leaphart said he didn't know.

"I'm just asking in case somebody said, ‘Well I've had this here for 75 years and you passed an ordinance and now I have to go and build a bathroom,'" Moore said.

This point will need to be researched, Parker said.

In a later interview, he said that the "grandfathered in" question could also concern businesses that were annexed into the city after building codes were adopted.

Lewis said during the meeting that he could understand if a location such as a law office did not have a restroom available to everyone walking by the street, but that convenience stores are different.

"This is the problem right now. You know, I hate to say this, but they're here in our God free country making this God free money, sending it back," Lewis said. "They should have a God free bathroom where the people can use it. It's as simple as that. There shouldn't have to be no problem with that."

The version of the International Plumbing Code adopted by the city, according to the city's website, is the 2006 edition with Georgia amendments from 2007 through 2011. The council readopted the code with the latest amendments in the past year, but the restroom requirements were already part of the earlier version, Parker said in the interview.

Any enforcement action, he said, will follow City Council's direction on how to proceed and could be handled through Municipal Court or the council itself. City officials will seek to work with business owners first by providing information and encouraging compliance, Parker said.

"In my opinion, most of the businesses the public deals with have a facility. Some just don't make it available to the public," he said.

The Health Department also has enforcement authority, but would more likely be concerned with the operation and cleanliness of the restrooms, while the city's authority is related to the building requirements, Parker said.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.


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