• 79°

City, county sell most surplus equipment on GovDeals.com

By Alyssa Schnugg and Rob Sigler

alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com

rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com

Oxford and Lafayette County have a lot of vehicles on the road, from police cars to back hoes to garbage trucks. The shop crews for each entitity are responsible for keeping employees, and residents, safe by making sure vehicles are running properly.

But even after major repairs and part replacements, some vehicles become worn to the point that they are no longer viable for the city or county to use. Sometimes needs change and a new updated vehicle is necessary. The local governments are bound by state laws on how to dispose of the old ones, and how to purchase new vehicles.

What is surplus?

In the city of Oxford, City Shop superintendent Bo Ragon is generally the one who decides when a city-owned vehicle becomes unsafe to remain on the road.

Sometimes it’s a matter of cost, as well as safety. Some believe anything can be fixed if enough money is spent. However, when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money, Ragon says the city has to consider what is fiscally the best option as well.

“There’s several factors that go into deciding when to take a vehicle off the road,” he said. “Age, safety and cost. If there’s a whole bunch of things wrong with a vehicle and it will cost $8,000 to fix it when you can get a new one for $15,000, then it’s best to go with a new one.”

Ragon said he’s had vehicles last 25 years on the road and then others, only last 12.

When it’s time to get rid of a vehicle, the Oxford Board of Aldermen, by state law, must either deem the vehicle surplus property or donate the vehicle to another government agency. For example, the city often sends older police vehicles to other cities that may be struggling financially.

After the vehicle is deemed surplus, it is put on GovDeals.com, which is basically an EBay for government-owned equipment.

“Only local, state or federal government agencies can put things up for sale,” Ragon said. “But anyone can buy them.”

The state law says the property must be sold via an auction. GovDeals.com is an approved method of auction.

To replace the vehicle, the city generally purchases one using a state contract through the Mississippi Department of State Contracts. Generally, a municipality must get three bids to purchase something over $25,000. The state contracts allow cities to skip that process.

“The state has talked to the manufactures and negotiated prices for vehicles statewide,” Ragon said. “The state has gone through the bidding process for us essentially.”

The city can go online and find the dealerships that have worked out contracts with the state that gives cities and counties new vehicles at a much lower cost than if purchased outside of a state contract or if a single person walked into a dealer and tried to purchase the same vehicle.

The city also uses state contracts for its fuel through Fuelman.

“We usually get gas for 28 cents or so less than at the pumps,” Ragon said. “We use a credit card and the gas company itself, like Shell or Chevron reimburses the local gas station.”

Similar in county

Lafayette County uses similar procedures, according to supervisor Jeff Busby. Most of the surplus vehicles and equipment, such as backhoes, are sold through Govdeals.com.

Road manager Jerry Haynie makes the determination when a vehicle or equipment is deemed ready for surplus and presents his recommendation to the board of supervisors who make the final decision.

“A lot of it has to do with how many miles is on a vehicle, if it’s been wrecked or if the airbags have deployed,” Haynie said. “There are a whole set of different factors. But we work real close with the board.”

Haynie and the road department crew also work with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department to perform maintenance on patrol vehicles, as well as help the LCSD when it is time to put vehicles up for auction through GovDeals.com.

“Some of their older cars we keep for longer periods of time,” Haynie said. “We keep them as long as the sheriff’s department has got them going. If a motor goes out in a patrol car, we’ll keep it to salvage the transmission or rear end. After a while, we’ll help them out with what they’re going to sell. We work with Sheriff (Buddy) East and help them out.”

The county has mechanics at the road department who strip parts from other vehicles and equipment to keep the fleet running, but they must also consider safety if a vehicle is continuously being repaired.

“They salvage what they can to keep them running as long as they can,” Busby said. “But if a vehicle gets to the point it is costing the county more for upkeep or the parts cost more than what it’s worth, then they decide it is ready for surplus.”

Other department heads also make recommendations to the board concerning surplus items.

Busby said the county also has other equipment, such as copiers, that are deemed surplus and placed on the GovDeals.com to auction.