Everyone loves a good deal, right? You can browse popular auction and garage sale sites if you want to, but have you ever seen live bison on any of them? Well, that’s just one interesting item among many that the OMES State Surplus department manages, where surplus state property from agencies around the state is made available for bid.
Pull in to the parking lot at 2530 W. Reno and you will see firetrucks, heavy construction equipment and sometimes even more exotic vehicles. Go inside the huge warehouse and you will find countless items that will be auctioned off for the state.
Roger Stone is the administrator for State Surplus, a department within Capital Assets Management of OMES.
“We take in surplus property from state agencies, and also handle federal property. And then there’s the counties’ property,” he tells us.
State Surplus is one of two ongoing, self-sustaining departments of OMES with no funding appropriation from the Legislature.
“We average a return of about $200,000 back to agencies every year,” Mr. Stone says. That’s after expenses and overhead for a staff of eight full-time employees. It’s a tight ship. Every stick of furniture in the front office comes from surplus, everything except the computers on the desks.
State agencies turn over property that is no longer needed to State Surplus, who will hold it on location to sell in the online auction published on the OMES website. The online sale is a perennial favorite link on the OMES website, and it’s no wonder. At this very moment, there are several Harley-Davidson motorcycles that are surplus from the State Highway Patrol. The Department of Public Safety has switched to BMW bikes and so fully dressed Harleys sit in a row at the warehouse and are displayed on the online surplus auction. Fully adjudicated vehicles seized in law enforcement raids also eventually end up here. You can get a Harley, or maybe a sweet Porsche or some other impounded ride.
It’s all part of a system, evolved over the years, for processing surplus materials. Items which may attract bids are posted online and are located either in the warehouse or on the donating agency’s grounds all around the state. Bidders register online and bid on items, with a published deadline for bids. Bidding can get fast and furious as the deadline approaches and bidders may win or get beat out within a millisecond as the time ticks away.
There’s another, more traditional auction the second Friday of every month. The auction opens at 8 a.m. and bidders register anew at every auction to get their credentials and bidding number. The warehouse is full of every conceivable object, including chairs, tables, furniture and machinery. Vehicles outside are also auctioned to the highest bidder. Huge pallets of obscure items are everywhere. On one recent morning a steel cage held thousands of copper cable pieces, maybe worth a fortune in scrap metal value.
Speaking of pallets of goods, check out the many laptops and CPU units stacked everywhere. There are also pallets full of computer monitors. But none of the machines come with hard drives. For obvious security and confidentiality reasons, hard drives are removed from every computer and server on display. Inside a secured cage, a huge machine chews up hard drives and microfiche, producing a recyclable pile of debris. Thus, everything is used efficiently, either sold online or in the public auction, or chewed and recycled. Any small part that is left is then disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Along the way, office furniture, desks and file cabinets often find their way into the daily sales. This is the classification of goods that are sold back to agencies at a major discount. It’s one big recycling, money-saving, money-making cycle, benefiting taxpayers in the end.
Mr. Stone is proud of what the department does with such a small staff. Other, private companies have tried to do the job but never successfully competed on a cost or profit basis. Word’s gotten around. State agencies donate, but now counties, municipalities and others around the world clamor to do business with Oklahoma State Surplus.
“We do business with the feds. We received food from FEMA that found a home with the Department of Corrections,” he says.
State Surplus can find a place for almost anything. Medical supplies ranging from wheelchairs to bone saws, something called a cadaver board and CPR dummies for training. Law enforcement donates and benefits from State Surplus stores. Stone displays a pile of “bullet-proof” vests that are being processed.
“The warranties have expired,” Stone explains. “But some departments are glad to have them and we furnish the vests to them. Last week a sheriff was shot wearing one of them and it saved his life.”
And the bison?
“We got them from Tourism. Some of the bison foaled calves and we placed them in new homes.” And he pauses and then adds, “You’ve seen the aluminum bison sculptures around town? We handled those too.”
There’s fun to be found strolling through the surplus warehouse, and so many great deals. Whether it’s a bike or a bison, a computer or a bookcase, there’s a little bit of everything. Who knew OMES had so much hidden treasure? Let’s make a deal!