Butch Behn would love to unload five high-tech public toilets that have been collecting dust and rust at his South Sound Speedway in Rochester.
About a decade ago, the city of Seattle had invested nearly $5 million in the toilets, which quickly became magnets for garbage, drug use, prostitution and mischief.
In 2008, Behn bought the shiny self-cleaning commodes on eBay for $12,549.
“Can you imagine paying that much and then throwing them away?” said Behn, noting that he paid more to haul the toilets from Seattle to Thurston County.
Each toilet is 9 feet tall and weighs about 7 tons with plenty of room inside. Each toilet has automatic doors, a hand dryer and sink.
Behn initially wanted to set up the toilets for fans at the racetrack. However, the cost of installation had approached $10,000, he said.
Today, four of the toilets sit in a scrap yard at the racetrack while another remains locked up near the property entrance off Old Highway 99. Behn said the county made him close the latter because of its proximity to a well, and the rest were left dormant.
Now he wants to sell the German-made toilets for $20,000 each, which is quite a bargain, he said.
“You couldn’t begin to build them for $20,000,” he said. “The worst part is that everybody knows what I paid for them.”
Behn’s price is a deal for a toilet of that caliber. For example, the stainless steel Portland Loo, which has become a popular option in some U.S. cities including Seattle, can cost up to $100,000 before installation.
And while Behn’s toilets go unflushed, officials in Olympia are trying to figure out a way to create more public restroom options downtown.
Downtown business owners say the lack of accessible public restrooms, especially at night, has become a significant burden.
The Olympia City Council has approved $345,000 for a downtown sanitation plan that addresses the potty problem.
The money will go toward an expansion of the Downtown Ambassador Program’s Clean Team to help pick up human waste in alleys and entryways seven days a week. The city also will turn the porta-potty at the Artesian Commons into a 24-hour facility instead of keeping it open only during park hours.
Other short-term goals include setting up porta-potties at up to four other downtown locations in 2016. The rest of the money — about $163,000 — will be earmarked for a permanent public restroom at a site to be determined. City Manager Steve Hall said the city will pursue grant funding to help pay for it.
The porta-potties are expected to cost as much as $13,700 per unit for rental and daily cleaning, according to the city. Recommended sites are:
▪ 318 State Ave. NE, across from the Olympia Transit Center.
▪ The Salvation Army at 808 Fifth Ave. SE, which lacks restrooms for clients.
▪ 207 Seventh Ave. SW, at the edge of Heritage Park at Columbia Street.