Cost of maintaining public toilets twice as expensive in the county

The cost of maintaining 14 public toilets across Galway county is almost double that of maintaining 15 public facilities in the city. Figures released by Galway County Council reveal the full cost of operating the toilets in 2014 was €298,226, while data released by the city council show the total cost to maintain its public facilities in 2014 amounted to just over €158,000.

In the county there are council operated public toilets located in Portumna (2 ), Spideal, Inverin, Clifden (2 ), Tuam, Loughrea (2 ), Ballinasloe, Carraroe, Traught Beach in Kinvara, and in Inis Mór (2 ).

In-house staff at Galway County Council look after the maintenance of 12 of their 14 public toilets. The contract for the maintenance of the two automated loos in Vicar Street in Tuam, and in the Fairgreen in Loughrea has been awarded to a private company. The company was paid nearly €60,000 last year to take charge of the two facilities, which are the most expensive to run. The self flushing units are cleaned on a daily basis.

The figures supplied by Galway County Council shows it costs an average of €21,000 per year to maintain one public facility. In comparison, it cost Galway City Council an average of €10,000 to maintain a single public toilet last year.

In the city there is one public toilet at the Millennium Park, Palmers Rock and at the Cathedral respectively, and there are 4 units in Eyre Square, Blackrock and at Ladies Beach. Total expenditure costs in 2014 were €158,517 while the income received by the public using the facilities in 2014 was €10,311. The city council broke down the expenditure for cleaning, maintenance, statutory inspections, energy, telecoms, etc. 

A spokesperson from the county council’s water services unit tried to shed some light on why the cost of maintaining a similar number of public toilets was twice that of their city counterparts. “The majority of the cost is for staff labour, there are also energy and cleaning material costs, along with the hire of equipment. There is also much wider geographical spread between the locations of our toilets than there is in the city.” 

Paying more for the same job

However, the spokesperson did concede that the total figure of nearly €300.000 was quite high, especially for the two facilities in  Loughrea and Tuam, which the council paid a company €58,000 last year to maintain. “It may be a case that for that particular contract, we are paying a little higher than the city council for maintenance.”

Connemara Councillor Seamas Walsh also suggested the cost of travel between the public toilets for maintenance was pushing up the county council’s cost. “Unfortunately councillors have no imput into the contracts being awarded, we are never privy to those figures, we just put our trust in the council executive to obtain the best value possible.’’

It’s estimated that a superloo can cost anything up to €100,000 to install, factoring in the initial cost of plumbing, sewerage and electrical services on top of the facility itself.

City Councillor Padraig Conneelly says he has raised the high cost of maintaining the public facilities at council level before. “There’s no doubt it is a lot of money to spend a penny! What I am told is there is a private company who installed these facilities and are in charge of maintaining them as well. Council executives say it is cheaper to tender out the work them to do it themselves. The company has specialised equipment for cleaning the toilets, it is hi-tech machinery that the council would not have, and I am told it it would not be economically viable to purchase this equipment.”

The Fine Gael representative concedes the costs are substantial but said the facilities are essential . “It is expensive but these toilets are necessary and must be available to people, especially in a tourist city like Galway.”

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