Million-Dollar Cans Shining Again

The new owner of self-cleaning toilets is happier than a pig in ... silver.

As the city forecasts another $18 million in decreased revenue for the 2009-2010 fiscal cycle and the council squeaks out a scaled-back budget, it seems appropriate to update the fate of one of the biggest municipal money-wasters in recent memory: those giant silver automatic public toilets.

After spending $5 million to own and operate its five fancy potties since 2004, the city decided they were a haven for drug use and prostitution earlier this year. The city originally tried to sell the toilets on eBay for $89,000 each—less than 20 percent of the original purchase price—before auctioning them on the Internet with no minimum bid last summer. They were snapped up for a couple thousand dollars apiece by Butch Behn, owner of Racecar Supply, located adjacent to the South Sound Speedway in Rochester, Wash.

Behn, who purchased the portable privies sight unseen, was initially a little nervous about his investment, but reports that the risk paid off. “They’re here and they’re shiny [and] nice,” he says, adding that he thinks he got one hell of a deal.

He has yet to hook them up on the racetrack because of the weather, but Behn 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 [and] probably sell three,” he says. “They’re still worth a lot, like $250,000 each.”

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