The Monroe Theater: What does a toilet cost?

United Monroe

A couple months ago, Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles launched his brainstorm plan to put the now-idle Monroe Theater multiplex to another use: Orange County’s most costly public toilet.

Already a subject of outrage that dates back to the November 2012 purchase of the Monroe Theater and it’s removal from the tax roles, the theater has been the subject of contention between the citizens of Monroe — who want it returned to the tax roles through private ownership where it could serve its original purpose — and the Town Board headed by Harley Doles — who has yet to put forth a viable plan for its use. Instead, he has suggested that the theater was to be bought by a private investor for far less than its appropriate market value, something typical of a property at auction.

And his projected uses for the building have ranged from being a town courthouse to being a combination theater and municipal facility, to potentially renovating it for the use of 3 of the 6 theaters. None have undergone a thorough feasibility study to determine cost estimates for a new purpose other than its original intended use, though reconfiguration by the Town Board’s own admission has been cited as potentially being in the $2,000,000 range. This is where some background is helpful.

In May of this year, the injunction to prevent the town from renovating or using the Monroe Theater while litigation was in process (initiated by what is now United Monroe) was lifted to permit the use of the facility as a public restroom. The estimated cost of opening the facility, security and janitorial services as well as utilities was pegged at $3,000/month.

$36,000 per year for a public bathroom that no one ever requested. But that alone isn’t the only cost to Monroe taxpayers.

A page launched on Facebook lampoons the use of the Monroe Theater as a “town toilet“, occasionally posting re-phrased movies that won’t be shown that week (“Dude, Where’s Your Bathroom” and “Enema At The Gates” just a couple examples of toilet puns). Recently, the page was used to publish the actual annual cost of the theater to the taxpayers of Monroe.

$307,000 a year.

That amount breaks down as follows:

$172,000 is comprised of principal and interest on a bond issue raised to pay for the theater. The remainder are the recurring budgeted costs of maintaining a facility that, since 2011, has been unused. The full costs are available on the Town’s Website. The full text of the Facebook Page’s post has been reprinted below, written from the point of view of the theater:

I’m your town’s theater. The Town of Monroe purchased me prior to an auction in November of 2012. It cost them about $880,000 in debt to do so.

I cost the taxpayers of Monroe $307,000 a year. The Town of Monroe now shows you that in its 2014 budget. $172,000 of that is principal and interest on the debt incurred to buy me. The rest are a whole bunch of items that I’ll post up here really soon to show you my real cost to you as a tax payer. I don’t pay any taxes. I don’t show movies. I cannot make a profit as a town-owned enterprise.

The town board will tell you that they “had the money” to buy me rather than let me be purchased by a private investor who would show movies and pay taxes. If they really had the money, they wouldn’t be paying off a Bond Issue every year.

Meanwhile, you aren’t getting roads repaired. Our water pumps are old and failing. A town highway truck was being limped along until they finally bought another. People don’t visit the village as much because there’s no movies. And the best idea they’ve had for me? Using me as a public toilet. Haven’t I flushed enough money down the drain on you already?

People were ready to purchase me and invest in me to show movies. Because everything is digital now, they’ll need to make an investment to make that happen. But I hear Harley Doles is in a mood lately to make compromises.

Call him. Tell him it’s time to admit that I cost too much to our taxpayers to keep me idle or owned by the town. Help me serve my intended purpose: Let me entertain you again. Use the number on the left of this page* and him know how you feel.

I’m your town’s theater. I’ve spoken. And I want to serve you again. Help me do that.

* The number on the left of the page was Monroe Town Hall.

The impact of that message was apparently not lost on Mr. Doles. Whether Town Hall suffered an impact of calls resulting from this message remains unknown. What is known is Mr. Doles unhinged response that in turn used the Town’s Website to vindictively take aim at Village of Monroe Mayor, James Purcell.

Monroe Theater

The Town of Monroe Website on July 10, 2014

Shown above is Mr. Doles’ tacky and unprofessional reaction when presented with the options of a rational decision or exacting vengeance on someone deemed as a political opponent: To turn the Town’s Website into an advertisement for the temporary porta-johns placed for the Village’s fireworks and Summer concerts. You’ll note the writing style is remarkably similar to other comments and public statements he has made, the absence of proper punctuation and apostrophes duly noted.

The fact is that Mr. Purcell’s solution to the need for restroom facilities is more economically feasible, requires less overhead, and is more suitable than the purchase of the Monroe Theater and the subsidy of a monthly $3000 price tag for a building that won’t serve a rational purpose. Instead, Mr. Doles seems bent on making a fool of himself, a behavior that’s become all too common lately.

Perhaps he’s caught in the swirl. If Mr. Doles’ interests truly were representative of the town and not his personal vendettas or own sociopathic issues, whatever they may be, he would focus less on having the most expensive public restroom in Orange County and more on how much his misguided larks and spending sprees will ultimately jeopardize the community he was elected to govern.

Managing Editor