Seattle's $5 million, high-tech public toilets finally sold on eBay — to a Thurston County company that paid $12,000.
Seattle has officially washed its hands of the five self-cleaning toilets.
The toilets cost the city $5 million. They sold on eBay Thursday evening for $12,549.
All five were sold to Racecar Supply, of Rochester, in Thurston County, with winning bids ranging from $1,625 to $4,899 per commode, said Pat Miller, spokesman for Seattle’s Fleets and Facilities Department. “What a buy,” said Racecar Supply owner Butch Behn. “Wouldn’t you think it’s a really good deal, considering what they paid for them? It was a gift.”
Behn said he likely will install at least two of the toilets at South Sound Speedway, a racetrack the company owns in Tenino. He said he might sell the others, perhaps keeping one for parts.
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“I’m thinking they’re pretty spendy to repair,” Behn said.
The high-tech public toilets, with sanitizing water jets and automatic doors, were installed in 2004 to accommodate tourists and transients in Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, the central waterfront, Pike Place Market and the Chinatown International District. But the city canceled its contract this spring after the commodes became filthy hide-outs for drug use and prostitution.
The city tried to sell the toilets on eBay in July, but nobody coughed up the $89,000 minimum bid. In its second attempt, which closed Thursday, the city offered no minimum, and 148 bids were cast.
“We sold them for what the market determined them to be worth,” said Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities. “Did we get hosed? I’m not sure.”
Miller said he wasn’t disappointed with the return on the city’s $5 million investment.
“The loss is not in the sale of them,” he said. “The loss was in the maintenance of them for years and years and years, in my opinion.”
The city paid more than it planned to take care of the toilets. Workers had to clean the stalls after trash clogged the self-cleaning mechanism. Losing the toilets will save the city some $4.5 million on the remainder of its operating contract and in cleaning costs over the next several years.
But the city still has to arrange to remove the toilets, which were closed to the public earlier this month. And it will cost an estimated $250,000 to restore the park sites where the toilets were installed.
“We’re just thrilled that we don’t have them anymore,” Miller said.
Behn said he plans to have them moved next week.
Though officials acknowledge more public restrooms are desperately needed, the city has no immediate plans to replace the toilets.
The city will recover about $10,400 for its utility fund after paying a 17 percent cut to Bidadoo, the company that handles the city’s online auctions. The state of Washington has been less successful in its online auction strategy. Despite the successful eBay sale of the passenger ferry Tyee in 2003, the state has failed to sell the passenger ferry Chinook and four Steel Electric ferries.
Noelene Clark: 206-464-2321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Gilmore contributed to this story.