LACONIA — Much of the talk surrounding the upcoming Motorcycle Week has centered around issues like vendor sites, beer tents, and traffic patterns. But this week the Laconia City Council got the scoop on a more mundane, but basic topic: portable potties.
City Manager Scott Myers told councilors that the cost to rent portable toilets for the nine-day event had skyrocketed.
“We’re talking a four-fold increase in the price,” he said at Monday's council meeting.
In 2019, the last time the city brought in the temporary toilets for Motorcycle Week, the cost was between $4,000 and $5,000. This year the low bid came in at $20,000.
That is what it will cost to rent 30 regular porta potties, plus four handicap-accessible units, Public Works Director Wes Anderson said.
When the first round of bids produced only two offers, the city readvertised and specifically sent notices to a number of vendors, hoping to entice more bidders, Myers explained. But the second round elicited only two bids as well, and then one of the bidders backed out, he said.
Anderson said the fact there are fewer vendors for the service could be one explanation for the higher cost.
“There’s been some consolidation in the industry,” he said.
There are 44 companies that provide a mix of septic and portable sanitation services in the state, according to Karleen Kos, the executive director of the Portable Sanitation Association International.
Using the most current statistics available to Kos’ organization, there are an estimated 21,000 portable toilets statewide,
Anderson said one problem is that many of the providers do not have the kind of stockpile available to provide the number of units needed for a large, special event like Motorcycle Week.
“They may have 30, but 29 of them are out all of the time,” he said.
Kos said several factors have caused the cost to rent chemical toilets to go up nationwide.
One is the effect of COVID, which has resulted in more units being rented, and also an increase in how often they are cleaned when they are out on site.
Other factors are increases in the cost of gasoline, which means higher delivery costs, and higher prices for plastic.
“Whereas before COVID, a unit would have cost between $500 and $600, now it costs $800 to $1,000," she said.
Nationwide there is a shortage of truck drivers, so companies are paying drivers more, which increases the underlying labor costs for businesses generally.
Kos said that, because of COVID, the image people have of portable toilets has improved.
The stereotype is that portable toilets are gross. But Kos said that more and more people are finding that with increased cleaning protocols they are more pleasant to use.
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