Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Open forum: Are we overpaying for bathroom fixtures?

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The March 26 letter from Lawrence Rosenblum, of the Friends of Ike Leggett, defending the new $65,000 bathroom set us onto a new way of looking at that issue (‘‘$65,000: Small price to pay for executive’s safety”).

Could it be that Montgomery County is buying Cadillacs when Chevys would do? And could it be that Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine doesn’t know the difference? Let’s see.

The March 20 Post quotes Mr. Firestine as saying the Santec faucets and Toto toilet for the Leggett Loo are ‘‘not marble and gold fixtures.” Well, he’s literally correct, but let’s look at those two brands and, more particularly, alternatives that many taxpayers in Montgomery buy for a lot less.

Everyone who installs bathrooms knows Toto is one of the better, and more-expensive, brands in bathroom fixtures. Toto’s Web tells buyers they will ‘‘Experience nature’s purest element in its truest form — delivered in luxury and opulence.” Wow! The least expensive model in a Toto toilet has an MSRP of $225 and they go up from there. By contrast, Lowe’s Web will sell you an American Standard toilet for as little as $150. That’s a difference of 50 percent.

As to Santec, the cheapest Santec bathroom faucet set at www.faucetandsinkconnection.com is $148.50, the next cheapest is $282.10, the next cheapest is $327.75. (Neither Lowe’s nor Home Depot carries Santec, perhaps because Santec apparently discourages discounting.) By comparison to the least expensive Santec, Home Depot has approximately 230 faucet sets listed online for less than $148.50.

So, it sure looks like the Leggett Loo could have provided just as much, er, service to the county executive for a lot less cost to the taxpayer.

We have to ask, ‘‘How many other instances of the county overpaying for what it needs exist?” Interesting question.

Elizabeth and George Vary, Bethesda