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Paradise or pit?

Considering the legislature’s costly renovation of the Capitol’s restrooms, the Missourian scrutinizes the thrones at Columbia’s publicly funded facilities
Sunday, January 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:39 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Mahogany doors, marble partitions and tiles, nickel plated fixtures and vaulted ceilings. The Missouri legislature approved $3 million for these renovations to the Capitol’s bathrooms.

The funds for the renovation already had been allocated before the state began to experience budget problems. In 2001, $2 million was budgeted for the bathrooms, and the other $900,000 was spent last year to complete the job. Renovation work on the bathrooms continues.

“The bathrooms were completely gutted to concrete slabs,” architect Keith Miller said. From there, builders balanced the number of men’s and women’s restrooms, raised the ceilings to the original heights and replaced the wiring. The new bathrooms are designed to look as the original builders intended, removing the avocado and harvest-orange tiles and styles that were added in the 1960s.

German marble stalls match the original Carthage marble that is now unavailable. The architects designed marble tile patterns for the walls and floor that could have been used in 1918 when the Capitol was built. Glass globes mounted on the ceiling and between mirrors hold new-and-improved fluorescent lights that match the originals. All the fixtures — from the door locks to the faucets — are nickel-plated brass.

Unexpected problems with the wiring and ductwork caused the project to exceed its budget, and five bathrooms were never renovated. Sixteen were completed, with the last 10 scheduled to be finished this month.

With this in mind, Missourian reporters Nicole Krieg and Caleb Vandenberg set out to examine other publicly funded bathrooms by experiencing them firsthand.


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Cosmopolitan Park

1615 Business Loop 70 W.; 4:07 p.m. Nov 3

No soap, no paper towels, no stall doors and no flushing. The wide-open entrance along with the cement, vented windows keep the stale air from becoming too stinky. They also provide the only light inside. Cobwebs cover the baby-changing station in each restroom, and the walls are cracked with chunks of cement missing. Feet stick to the brown cement floor as you walk across it. The stainless steel sink and toilets are stained with rings of grime and dirt. A big Master padlock on the dispenser foils any potential toilet-paper thieves. The restrooms close during the freezing season; a “Johnny-On-The-Spot” is the only option during winter.


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Jesse Hall

MU campus; 5:02 p.m. Nov. 3

Theatergoers demand sophistication, and they get it at Jesse Hall. Lighting matches the decor of the building and brings a sense of elegance to the bathroom. Plenty options await patrons: liquid or bar soap, paper towels or a hand dryer, and automatic or manual toilets. A wooden coat rack is provided for the men while women enjoy a full-length mirror to check their attire. The women’s restroom has an overall clean look, but the men’s room has a Mizzou Weekly and pieces of toilet paper scattered over one of the stalls. A mysterious stained toothbrush lies at the corner of the counter. Both of the bathrooms are nice, but it seems the women will have the more enjoyable experience.


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Columbia City Hall

701 E. Broadway; 3 p.m. Nov. 3

An overpowering vanilla scent greets the ladies who open the plain wooden door which contrasts with the ornate wooden staircase and antique lights. Temperature differences make the men’s and women’s restrooms feel worlds apart. Patrons won’t stay too long because the women’s bathroom feels like Antarctica while the men’s feels like a visit to the Sahara Desert. But the toilets are clean and accessible for people in wheelchairs. Everything from the soap to the jumbo toilet paper dispenser is full. Little scraps of paper towels on the floor are the only signs of use. Bare walls of the single-seat bathroom left each of us with a sense of loneliness.


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Columbia Public Library

100 W. Broadway; 4:42 p.m. Nov. 3

Bright blue-checkered tiles sparkle; there is not a speck of dirt in sight. It is the newest and neatest facility that we visited. The door opens automatically for disabled people, and there is a coat hook available that will keep your coat out of the grime — if there is any. Ceramic toilets and metal plumbing look polished like a grandmother’s fine silver. A big mirror hangs above the sinks, making the bathroom look even more spacious than it is. A plug is next to the sink to allow patrons to shave or dry their hair — just in case. A sign provides directions to ensure an immaculate appearance: “If restroom needs attention please alert staff.”


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Boone County Courthouse

705 E. Walnut St.; 3:20 p.m. Nov. 3

The heavy wooden door is reminiscent of the courtroom doors down the hall, but the feeling inside is more like a crime scene, with the caution tape across a door instead of an out-of-order sign. Toilets available for use seem to be kept up well by the janitors. Toilet paper rolls line the shelf like soldiers ready for action. The smell in the air is neutral, and the floor is neither clean nor dirty. There are paper towels on the counter and around the trash can. The hand dryer is clean and shiny enough to check your hair in.


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