Anyone wishing to purchase surplus equipment by auction from the city-parish will have to do it electronically starting next week — a new process city-parish officials say they expect to reduce costs and increase revenues.
The types of surplus equipment that previously were sold at auctions held on site will instead be auctioned off through the online auction site municibid.com, said Patti Wallace, the city-parish’s interim purchasing director.
The website caters to municipalities and government agencies, she said.
Wallace said the city-parish’s first auction on municibid.com will begin April 20 and end May 4.
The switch to the new system is part of an effort by the Mayor-President’s Office to use technology to reduce costs and increase revenue, Wallace said.
“We wanted to get our inventory greater exposure to the public,” Wallace said.
The increased exposure should result in higher bids, she said.
“We were having on-site auctions before,” Wallace said, noting that the on-site auctions were expensive.
“We have just two inventory staff,” Wallace said. “We would have to borrow employees from other departments to put on our auctions.”
The city-parish hosted only one auction per year because of overtime payments for workers and other costs associated with hosting on-site auctions, Wallace said.
The city-parish will be able to auction off surplus inventory more quickly, and with less overhead, with an online auction, Wallace said.
“Absolutely it will be ongoing as soon as we get inventory,” she said.
The first auction will give officials a chance to compare the prices with the last auction, held in June, she said.
“We wanted to conduct a representative sampling of our inventory: vehicles, lawn equipment, office equipment,” Wallace said. She said officials will compare the auction prices for individual items in the online auction to the June 11 auction.
The city-parish will be selling items seized by police, in addition to surplus equipment.
“I anticipate getting more for items,” Wallace said. “And in terms of expenditures, I expect to see a significant decrease.”
Friday afternoon, municibid’s “Baton Rouge Store” listed 48 items up for auction, including minivans, lawn mowers, copiers and tractors. Wallace said more items will be added to the list in the days ahead.
Wallace said municibid does not charge the city-parish a commission for its sales, rather it collects an 8 percent “buyer’s final sale fee” directly from the winning bidder, according to the company’s website. For auctions in some other cities, municibid charges a 5 percent buyer’s fee.
Payment for the items can be made by electronic funds transfer, wire transfer or cashier’s check, certified check or money order, municibid founder and CEO Greg Berry said in an email. The 8 percent fee must be paid with a credit or debit card, he said.
The municibid site was chosen after a “request for proposals ” was published, said Bob Abbott, an assistant parish attorney.
Wallace said companies that submitted proposals, including municibid.com, govdeals.com, Brown’s Auction Company of Lafayette, and Kunstler Newton Services of Baton Rouge. The proposals were evaluated by a committee that included Wallace and representatives of the city-parish’s information technology, finance, public works and police departments, she said.
The city has a one-year contract with municibid, with two 12-month renewal options for a maximum contract length of 36 months, Wallace said.
Wallace said the request for proposals was written after she researched ways to use technology to reduce costs and increase revenue from surplus inventory.
“I did contact two in-state and several out-of-state agencies,” she said, referring to entities that have used municipal auctions. “One said it was the same, but the majority said they saw a significant increase.”
Ascension Parish tried something similar last year, said Trent Woodard, a project coordinator in the parish’s Information Technology department.
“We went back to doing it with an on-site auction,” Woodard said. The problem wasn’t with the online auction service — Ascension Parish used govdeals.com, a similar site to municibid — but with the parish’s internal logistics.
“Most of the problems were … about having multiple people pick up items over several days,” he said, adding that the inventory and location that could accept payment were often not the same place.
Govdeals charged between 7 percent and 10 percent of the final sale price to use their service, Woodard said.
“We liked that it was advertised to more people,” he said. “The logistics didn’t really work out for us.”
For Baton Rouge, municibid will process all the payments from the winning bidders, Wallace said. Once municibid sends a certification to the city-parish, the buyer will have 10 days to pick up the equipment, she added.
Municibid serves as auctioneer for approximately 600 municipalities and agencies across the country, but Baton Rouge is the first city in Louisiana served by municibid, Berry said.
“Once we demonstrate success with Baton Rouge, we will reach out to other Louisiana agencies,” Berry said in an email.
The company serves as the online auction site for the cities of Boston and Philadelphia, he said.
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