If all goes according to plan, Ocracoke will have several new public restrooms this year on the Island Inn property.
The Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board in December allocated $141,000 from its reserve fund to the Ocracoke Preservation Society, which purchased the Island Inn last year with the intent to preserve it for the community.
Ocracoke’s county Commissioner Tom Pahl explained at the Jan. 7 Hyde County commissioners meeting, during which the commissioners approved the funding, that the grant will help pay for a new septic system on the property, walkways, ramps and six private restrooms.
He said the project would be put out to bid in mid-February and all the work done in a couple of months.
“It’s an aggressive schedule,” he said. “We hope the restrooms are up and running before the season.”
The OPS this week began advertising for a project manager for these restrooms. Last year, the OPS demolished the two wings off the original 1907 structure, the former Odd Fellows Lodge.
In October, the OPS received a $15,000 grant from The Outer Banks Community Foundation to stabilize the Odd Fellow Lodge section of the Island Inn. Stabilization of the building includes removing the remaining demolition debris, closing gaps and some internal work, said Ken DeBarth, OPS president.
Recently, most of the demolition debris was removed and the open parts of the building were covered over and given a coating of whitewash to close the building for two years while it awaits the next steps.
“It will cost half a million dollars to restore that building and turn it into a visitor center,” he said. “We want the upstairs to be rent producing.”
That funding must be raised, which the OPS will do over several years.
In early February, islanders will begin to hear the screech of concrete crushing as the debris concrete all around the site is pulverized. After that, the crushed concrete will be reused as fill under the building and in the parking lot, Pahl said.
As for maintenance of these restrooms, long-needed in Ocracoke Village, Pahl said he thinks that’s an Ocracoke Civic & Business Association task.
“I’m encouraging the OCBA to include a dollar amount in their request to the Ocracoke Tourism Development Authority to pay for a contract cleaner,” he said. “If there’s a clogged toilet, who gets the call? My preference is it should be an OCBA oversight.”
Both the unanswered questions of where to locate more public restrooms and who to manage them has floated around the island for a while now. Hyde County can’t do it because there’s no county administrative staff on the island.
The vision for the iconic property, which the OPS purchased last May, includes retaining and renovating the original two-story, wood-frame structure (the former Odd Fellow’s Lodge), demolishing the two deteriorating wings (which has been done) and adding public restrooms, all while retaining some green space.