Bet this isn’t a big surprise for some of you, but sometimes governmental entities tend to be slow to change. In nice terms, some might say we can be “late adopters.” It’s so much easier not to change as technology advances. And it’s a whole lot cheaper, too. If it works, don’t fix it, right?
My goodness, this tendency of city administration is hard on a great crew of people who want to excel. When you give good people an opportunity to suggest changes, the best things happen.
Case in point: It had been a while since the city of Tahlequah went through the process to surplus broken, unused or unneeded equipment through an auction. The old process was to gather all the excess at a central place, hire an auctioneer, hang some flyers, and push the auction date on social media. With a limited number of possible purchasers, individual items sold for pennies on the dollar.
A drivable used car for $500 or less? It’s a deal! With a field full of salable items, each auction was much like a yard sale – a whole lot of work, not much return. Over time, the number of vehicles that could no longer be driven started filling departmental workspaces. Broken or outdated equipment gathered in closets, sheds and basements. We needed to clean house.
Who knew? There’s this whole online world out there. Oh, you’ve heard of eBay? Online auctions designed for surplus governmental equipment are out there, too. Many entities in and around Tahlequah made the leap long ago. Upload pictures and descriptions, and before you know it, bargain hunters across the U.S. are deciding if they want to bid.
With the approval of the City Council, we dipped our toe into the online world. Ten old pieces of equipment that mostly didn’t run brought in a whole lot more than anyone expected. With that kind of success, we moved forward with 32 more items. Examples from the list? A 1999 dump truck, a 1997 backhoe, several police cruisers from 2007-2013, toolboxes, bookshelves, a mixed bag. While selling items that we consider to be low value, if not worthless, we watched the bidding totals climb.
This week, the auction for these items closed. The total we’ll receive is $118,225. The buyer is responsible for picking up or arranging delivery of the item. There’s no additional cost to the city. Those used cars? Over $2,000 apiece. It’s a lot easier to approve the purchase of a new piece of equipment when our housecleaning efforts help cover the cost.
In our agreement with the City Council, they approve the list of items to be auctioned. With this success, we’ll be developing the next list of items to post. We have years of accumulation to clear. Won’t it be nice to drive by a city facility and not see junkers in the front yard?
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.