Sold! Distributing surplus online
It is never easy to get rid of leftovers. But dot-com companies are making it easier for local governments to get rid of their used or surplus equipment through online ads and auctions.
La Mirada, Calif., is looking to use online auctions for all surplus sales, based on its recent success with eCitydeals.com, a Los Angeles-based government Internet services firm, to sell some used buses. Subscribers also can purchase equipment, locate a vendor and post a request for proposals (RFPs) on the site. The city has a policy about buses: When the vehicle’s odometer approaches 90,000 miles, it is time to start looking for a replacement. Although the vehicles are well maintained, age presents some concern regarding their continued drivability, says City Manager Gary Sloan.
In the past, La Mirada has struggled with selling used vehicles. “We are required to reverse our bid process to sell equipment,” Sloan says. “That’s very time-consuming.”
The process does not always bring the best price, either. Last year, the city participated in a traditional auction to sell three buses and garnered only $7,000 for the three. “That was a terrible return on the investment,” Sloan says. (New buses typically cost between $60,000 and $70,000.)
This year, La Mirada became an e-city to sell two more buses. When the city listed the buses online, the company put the vehicles up for auction to registered online users. Potential buyers submitted bids, and the city selected the best offers.
At the end of the auction, La Mirada got $23,000 for both buses and accomplished its selling requirements with very little effort. It paid the company a 3 percent commission on the sale price.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Sloan says. “We were very pleased.”
Other cities and counties are having similar success at bidgov.com, a Des Moines, Iowa-based site where government agencies can sell equipment through online auctions or online classifieds, list RFPs and review lists of government vendors.
Government agencies can auction items online by listing descriptions of the items and selecting the length of the auction period, such as a week or a month. Bidders can review all previous dollar entries.
When the auction ends, the seller and the winning bidder receive e-mail notification so that they can contact each other to arrange for delivery of the item. Sellers also pay a percentage of the item’s sale price to the company.
The online auction also has worked well for Liberty Fire District in Acampo, Calif., according to District Secretary Karen Kammerer. Earlier this year, the agency auctioned an EMS rescue unit online and received $25,000.
In addition to selling items through auctions, governments can buy classified ad space online for $45 for 30 days. Items for sale include school buses, trucks and firefighters’ gear.
Kris Kelly, office manager for Thurston County (Wash.) Fire District No. 4, listed a pumper unit online after receiving no responses to local requests for bids. The 1965 vehicle has been used as a reserve unit for the past several years, but the district realized that it was no longer cost-effective to maintain the vehicle. “Since it’s an old truck, it’s a hard sell,” Kelly says. “The more places it is listed, the better.” She also has placed print ads in several publications around the nation.
The Internet represents yet another way for local governments to help themselves and help each other by creating a “trading” forum. Auctioning equipment online satisfies government requirements for reverse bidding on surplus, and it allows cities and counties to process their leftovers quickly and easily.