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Public conveniences an eyesore?

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You can have a beautiful view from the street. Or you can have beautiful restrooms.

Those who are planning Salt Lake City's Olympic festival opted for the latter, and then set about erecting some of the swankiest restrooms ever to grace public land. They're among the newest, and possibly most gracious, city-funded structures.

For people driving or walking by, however, the trailer-like restrooms block the view of city's architectural jewel, the 108-year-old City-County Building. And what happened to those 15 Allan Houser sculptures, installed on the square as part of the Cultural Olympiad? Several of the statues are hidden behind the new, albeit temporary, restrooms and 10 white tents that will house food and beverage vendors during the downtown Olympic festival.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, acknowledged John Sittner, the city's chief of Olympic planning. But like just about everything else, the downtown festival map changed after Sept. 11.

"Since we have to put a fence around the square," Sittner said, "we decided to move the structures out to the perimeter." The original plan called for placing tents and restrooms in an inner circle ? but that was before the square became a secured Olympic venue.

The new configuration creates a virtual wall around the hordes of festival-goers and security guards ? and most of the Houser sculptures to be on the square. Those inside the wall will have good views of the American Indian statues, Sittner said, and after they've come through the security checkpoints, they'll have access to the City-County Building, which contains the Olympic memorabilia and "The Physical Fitness of Cities" exhibits now and throughout the Games.

And every night, from Feb. 7-23, the outdoor festival on the square will feature big-screen video coverage of Olympic events plus live entertainment, as a free alternative or addition to the Medals Plaza festivities. And the high-class restrooms may help revelers brave the cold. They're just like restrooms used on movie sets, Sittner said: They have heat, bright lights and running water. They can accommodate 96 people. And they're actually cheaper than the kind typically seen at festivals. The movie-set restrooms cost the city $22,000 to rent and install, as opposed to the $30,000 it would have paid to provide as many port-a-potties.

Still, City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton lamented that "Washington Square is going to get ripped to pieces" beneath all the party preparations.

Sittner admitted that protective plywood wasn't used the way it should have been. This week, however, a heavy-duty plastic surface is being laid down across the square.

That has to be done by Feb. 7, when the Olympic torch arrives at City Hall, with an expected crowd of 35,000 in tow.

Unanticipated costs keep sprouting beneath city officials' feet. And Deputy Mayor Rocky Fluhart has kept asking the City Council to allocate more money to cover them. Last week he sought and received $90,000 for repairing the Washington Square after the throngs depart.

"That's primarily for turf replacement . . . in the spring," Fluhart said. And the cost "could be a lot less. I don't think it will be more."

Then again, Fluhart added, it's likely that other expenses will crop up.

Even the city's guru of the big picture, planning director Stephen Goldsmith, said the Olympics have gone beyond control.

"I compare it to a tsunami," Goldsmith said. "We're . . . kids standing on the beach," watching the wave about to break over us.

E-mail: durbani@desnews.com