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Owen County Unveils New Public Restrooms In Downtown Spencer

Owen County restrooms

Marce King (right) and Mike Spinks (left) cut the celebratory "ribbon" – a roll of toilet paper – at the public restroom unveiling Monday. (Mitch Legan, WTIU/WFIU News)

Hosting festivals in downtown Spencer just got easier.

Residents and local officials gathered a few hundred feet south of the historic Owen County courthouse Monday to celebrate the grand opening of the town’s new public restroom facility – complete with a “ribbon cutting” of a roll of toilet paper.

“This is really exciting for the entire community to be able to have this as an option,” said Jonathan Balash, president of local LGBTQ advocacy group Spencer Pride. “Now, for all of our downtown festivities – especially when we see this resurgence post-pandemic – we're excited to be able have this as one more of those options that we've got.”

The project was a collaborative effort by local businesses, government officials and community members, who wanted to ensure visitors would have a facility to use downtown after the county’s festival scene took a major hit from a local ordinance, followed by the coronavirus pandemic.  

READ MORE: Owen Co. Chamber Of Commerce Wants Public Restrooms In Spencer For Festivals

In 2019, the Owen County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance that prohibits anyone from using the county courthouse for a festival or special event. Many residents saw the ordinance as a thinly veiled attempt at banning Spencer Pride’s annual Pride Festival, and vehemently pushed back over the course of months.

But the commissioners went with the ordinance anyway, leaving the community to their own devices on how to hold a festival without the courthouse, which provided electricity, running water and restrooms.

READ MORE: Spencer PRIDE Working With Town Officials On PRIDE Fest

“Before you is not just a public restroom facility,” said Marce King, executive director of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation. “Before you today is the physical expression of a community that works together.”

The community came together last summer to raise $25,000 for the project in just 20 days. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority contributed an additional $25,000.

Mike Spinks, longtime Spencer resident and president of the Town Council, said the facility will be an integral feature going forward for a downtown that has been revitalized in recent years.

“I've been here 50 years with my family – my wife and three daughters, and, you know, this community comes together when they need to,” he said. “I really think this is a plus for downtown. It shows integrity and it's been needed for so long. Because we have people coming from McCormick's Creek, we have other times with the festivals downtown. And this will be a big part of it.”

Have a story idea? Find Mitch on Twitter @ByMitchLegan or email him at mitlegan@iu.edu.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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