KILDARE Co Council spent €132,000 on its four public toilets last year but the revenue garnered from people “spending a penny” only amounting to just over €3,000.
The council provides four public toilets in the town centres of Kildare, Newbridge, Naas and Athy.
The net of VAT costs for operating the units was €132,867 in 2015, €132,750 in 2016 and €65,926 up until June of this year.
The council say the costs “cover electricity supply to the units, the checking and monitoring of the many safety mechanisms on the units and to check the internal communication and operation systems”.
Other costs are “replenishing the soap, tissue and all other consumables, to check for and remove any graffiti, clean all internal components,this includes polishing mirrors and chrome fittings”.
Expenditure also accrues over “washing the exterior of the facility from top to bottom on a regular basis, replace any notices that may have become damaged/defaced by wear and tear or by sporadic incidences of vandalism, carry out preventative maintenance work to prevent future mechanical and electrical failures”.
There are also costs associated with replacing electrical and mechanical components that need replacing through wear and tear.
Independent councillor for the Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District Joanne Pender, says while public toilets are a public service and are needed she would be concerned about the costs.
“First of all they provide a public service and they’re needed for mothers and fathers with children. In Kildare town, it’s a market town and there is value to the public toilet.
“I would be concerned about the cost of them. We had this discussion before about this. There were suggestions to open the toilet in the Town Hall in Newbridge and relocate the funds there and to me that’s a better use of the money.
“If there’s a public building nearby, it could be opened up. There was another suggestion that maybe local businesses could put a sign up letting the public know they can use the toilets and they would get a grant.
“It definitely needs exploring. It’s outsourced as well and they [the private companies] have to make a margin. Maybe the council could take it back in [under their control].
“It would create a job, maybe even two jobs. We’re spending an extraordinary amount of money outsourcing these public services.”
Sinn Féin councillor for the Athy Municipal District Thomas Redmond says the public toilets are “badly needed”.
“Unfortunately, we don’t provide the service. Athy is a town that prides itself on tourism and we need the public toilet.”
The net of VAT revenue generated by the units was €5,274 in 2015 and €3,569 in 2016.
The council was not in a position to provide revenue figures for 2017 yet.
But they did point out that there were no installation costs incurred in respect of the four units for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“The above costs have been examined and the Executive intends to bring a recommendation to the members shortly.”
In a statement, Kildare Co Council said: “The council provides four safe, clean and easily accessible public conveniences in Athy, Kildare, Newbridge and Naas.
“These units are serviced regularly and particularly during busy tourist periods.
“There are four contracts in place for the four towns with expiry dates between 2020 and 2024 and the terms and conditions are deemed commercially sensitive.”
Cllr Pender added that the contracts are for a “huge length of time” and members were told before that the costs of coming out of the contract are “prohibitive”.