Phoenix Debates Who Will Clean Restrooms At City Parks

By Christina Estes
Published: Tuesday, September 8, 2020 - 7:23pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 2:07pm

kids playing soccer
Christina Estes
Children playing soccer at Encanto Park in Phoenix before COVID-19.

Who should clean the restrooms at Phoenix parks? That was the focus of discussion during Tuesday’s council policy session. The debate comes as the city prepares to reopen its athletic fields Thursday. 

When the council voted last week to reopen 86 athletic fields to outside groups, the Parks Department was asked to return with information about what it would take to clean the restrooms more than the standard once a day. The answer: paying a contractor roughly $750,000 to add one daily cleaning through the end of the year.

“If we are going to clean more than once a day and we wanted to do that as fast as possible, the fastest way to do that is through a contractor because they would be able to just insert their existing infrastructure into what we've got,” said Ed Zuercher, city manager.

Several councilmembers pushed back on outsourcing. It’s part of a bigger issue among some members like Vice Mayor Betty Guardado who want the city to keep more business in-house.

“You know that a lot of these subcontracting companies are not going to provide health insurance for these workers,” she said. “These are the most vulnerable workers that we’re going to have out there and that might catch COVID, so what’s going to happen to those people if they do catch the virus and they’re not being provided with health care?”

Councilwoman Laura Pastor requested information comparing costs between hiring a contractor and hiring part-time city employees. Zuercher said an analysis will be presented to the council next week.

Councilmember Carlos Garica who, along with Guardado, voted against the reopening said he believes last week’s decision was premature.

“We still don’t have medical expertise as we’re making these decisions, or whether to clean the restroom once or twice but we’re moving forward with it,” he said. 

Zuercher told the council an analysis will be presented next week so members can decide whether to hire a contractor, use current employees or hire part-time workers. 

“We are not aware of any other city around us that is doing more than one per day now,” he said. “Our aspiration is to clean more regularly, clean more than once a day, and it’s going to take a little bit to get our staffing up to that level.”

Only restrooms next to the 86 athletic fields will reopen to the public. Other restrooms at flatland parks remain closed. Groups interested in reserving athletic fields can find information at phoenix.gov/parks/sports.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct spelling of Vice Mayor Guardado's name.

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