As the city forecasts another $20 million in decreased revenue for 2009-2010 and the council struggles to approve a scaled-back budget, it seems appropriate to update the fate of one of the biggest money wasters in recent memory: those giant, silver, automatic, public toilets.
The city decided its five fancy potties were unsightly and a haven for drug use and prostitution earlier this year, but it had already spent $5 million to own and operate them since 2004. After originally trying to sell them on eBay for $89,000 each, less than 20 percent of the original purchase price, the city auctioned them on the Internet with no minimum bid last summer. They were snapped up for a couple thousand dollars each by Butch Behn, owner of Racecar Supply, located adjacent to the South Sound Speedway in Rochester.
Behn-- who purchased the portable privies sight unseen-- was initially a little nervous about his investment, but he reports that the risk paid off. "They're here and they're shiny, nice," he says, adding that he still thinks he got one helluva deal.
Behn has yet to hook them up on the racetrack because the weather's been to miserable, but he says he plans to have the toilets open for use in the spring, though he may only keep a couple.
He reckons he'll have more luck selling them than the city did. "I'm going to keep two, probably sell three," Behn says. "They're still worth a lot, like $250,000 each."