Another kind of surplus can be a very good thing

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 87 views 

State Rep. Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas, says his 30 years of work with the Pocahontas Fire Department taught him the need for good equipment. That’s why Baltz says he visits the federal surplus center at the North Little Rock Airport and the Arkansas Marketing and Redistribution Center in Little Rock on a weekly basis.

Both places have equipment for sale to police departments, fire departments, and city and county government as well as 501(c)3 tax exempt groups, Baltz said.

The lawmaker estimated that he has been able to save the cities and counties in his district close to $2 million over the past several years due to the work.

According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration website, the groups can go to the state center on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to look over equipment.

The state’s surplus program “oversees the redistribution and the sale of state surplus property between state agencies, tax supported entities and the general public,” the website noted.

Online auctions, on location sales and public auctions are held throughout the year to sell the equipment. The auctions take cash, check or credit card.
A group can fill out a surplus disposal form online to have the equipment delivered or to pick it up at the Little Rock office.

The website also noted that vehicles, four-wheelers, canoes, mowers, tractors, office furniture, exercise equipment, computers, computer servers and video/audio equipment are also up for auction.

The federal surplus program, which is administered through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, has furniture and office supplies, vehicles, generators and construction equipment among other items for sale, the ADEM website noted. ADEM also brings about 175 semi-truck loads each year of federal property back to Arkansas, officials said on their website.

Baltz said a group can put a five-day hold on federal surplus property or a 10-day hold on state property before having to pick it up. Also, the price can be dropped by half if an item is not bought within 90 days.

Baltz said the Randolph County transfer station was in need of garbage trucks. “They haul garbage to Paragould,” Baltz said, noting the older trucks can have between 500,000 and 600,000 miles on them.

The newer trucks, Federal Freightliners with about 60,000 miles on them and typically cost about $40,000 each, were bought for about $6,500 a piece, Baltz said.

Baltz said he has been able to find everything from bar lights for emergency vehicles to spike strips for police departments.

A brush truck, which normally costs thousands of dollars, was found for about $2,500 while a 100-kilowatt generator was found for $1,250, Baltz said.
A $30,000 sewer pump for the city of Pocahontas was purchased for $1,250 as well as six large truck tires for the Glencoe Fire Department.

“It is kind of sad that the surplus is there,” Baltz said of the equipment that is discarded by federal or state agencies.

Also, six Humvees were bought for departments around his district. “A one-ton truck won’t go where a Humvee goes. It helps with getting around during flooding,” Baltz said. “You have to go through hoops to get it but it is worth every penny.”

Other items like skip loaders, bullet proof vests and underwater breathing apparatuses are also available, Baltz said. “We found a 40-foot by 100-foot tent for $500, 1,000 feet of conduit for $75, a swing set and bleachers,” Baltz said.

Pocahontas Mayor Kary Story said the Randolph County town has been able to benefit from the program.

“We recently purchased a dump truck for about one-quarter of what we would have paid in the private sector,” Story said.

Most cities and counties face a constant worry over their budget, Story said, noting officials often look for ways to save money. “Everyone is searching for pennies,” Story said. The city also bought a golf cart for the city parks department. Story said the golf cart helps city employees get around town quickly as well as running errands.

Both Baltz and Fulton County Judge Darrell Zimmer said the surplus program has been beneficial in Fulton County.

Zimmer said many of the local fire departments, especially in rural areas, have been able to buy new equipment and replace trucks as well as tires.
The newer equipment can help reduce the county’s ISO rating as well as helping firefighters in training, Zimmer said.

“It helps with the rural fire departments. The cost is only the fraction of what it would cost,” Zimmer said.

A new generator was also bought for the Fulton County Hospital. “It definitely would have cost more to replace (through the private sector),” Zimmer said.

Baltz said the money saved through the process can help the bottom line of a city’s budget; and that he will drive a truck to Little Rock once a week to help bring items back. “Whatever they need me to help with, I will do. We are down there to help our districts,” Baltz said of lawmakers.