From fire trucks to file folders, purchasers typically pay 10 percent of original cost
Call it the â€œHome Shopping Networkâ€ for government agencies.
Where else can a county road department get a scoop loader for $12,000? Or a volunteer fire department purchase a fire hose assembly for $10?
As cities, counties, school districts, institutions of higher education and public health care struggle trying to make ends meet and in many cases bridge multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls, many may be overlooking a great source for many of their needs – and at deeply discounted prices.
Kristy Fierro and the Texas Facilities Commissionâ€™s (TFC) Federal Surplus Property Program are trying to change that.
Fierro is assistant director of the program that serves municipalities, cities, counties, all state agencies, public health organizations, volunteer fire departments, providers of assistance to the homeless and some small businesses. What the program offers is a wide variety of federal surplus property – property the federal government no longer uses or needs.
The cost of the items â€œvaries by asset,â€ said Fierro. Because the program is a cost-recovery program at TFC, it charges a fee for purchase of the donated federal property. The end cost to the buyer is typically 10 percent of what the federal government originally paid for the items. So if the federal government bought a desk for $1,000 new, after it reaches the Texas Federal Surplus Property Program in Texas, the buyer will usually pay around $100 for it.
The Texas program, although headquartered in Austin, has warehouses in Fort Worth and San Antonio where the items are stored.
Buyers have three options for selecting the items they want to purchase. Hereâ€™s how it worksâ€¦
Eligible buyers can visit the federal General Services Administration (GSA) Web site to view the inventory of items there that the federal government no longer needs. A call then is placed to Fierroâ€™s program, which will in turn contact GSA to see if that item is available and then request it.
However, a request does not guarantee delivery. Fierro said allocation of surplus property from the federal program varies by state. The allocations are based on historical data of what has been previously awarded to the state, information regarding what has been needed in the past and whatâ€™s available.
Additionally, the Texas program has â€œscreenersâ€ (or â€œshoppersâ€) who watch the GSA site daily, looking for items. They often â€œshopâ€ for items that historically have been requested often through the state program and try to make them available in their warehouses. The determination of whether a state will receive the property requested can be â€œbased on the volume of property each state has received in the past,â€ said Fierro. It can also be based on the need for specific property. For instance, during a disaster, if heavy equipment is available and it is needed in a particular area, that will be taken into consideration when deciding where to allocate those items. â€œIf Alabama has had tornadoes or weâ€™re (Texas) in a hurricane, the allocation of more property will come to us,â€ said Fierro.
Another purchasing option is that eligible buyers can visit the TFC Web site and view all the items in inventory at the two state warehouses and request items there. The warehouses collectively include millions of dollars worth of federal surplus property.
And finally, eligible buyers can visit the two Texas warehouses and select in-person the items from the inventory there.
Fierro said volunteer fire departments have purchased fire truck and fire fighting equipment, while groups that serve the homeless have purchased Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers like those used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and have since been retired. Museums request aircraft to display, while universities request them for flight training programs. Boy Scout troops have purchased camping gear. And many entities purchase office furniture and office supplies that can include everything from usable toner cartridges to laptop cases. â€œAnything that a community can benefit from, weâ€™ll try to get it,â€ said Fierro.
â€œThereâ€™s a wealth of great property thatâ€™s available.â€
Certain small businesses can also apply to purchase equipment, such as a construction company looking for used backhoes, road graders or heavy equipment. However, they must be registered with their local Small Business Administration (SBA) office and they will only be able to make purchases for eight years after they originally registered with the SBA.
Fierro said cities and counties are automatically eligible to participate in the program. Would-be purchasers must fill out an application to become part of the program. Once an account is created, if an entity purchases an item, the entity will be invoiced for the cost, and will have 30 days from the time the invoice is received to pay the bill. Probably the only drawback to the program is that if a buyer locates an item and it ends up in the stateâ€™s warehouse ready for purchase, the buyer will have to travel to the warehouse in either Fort Worth or San Antonio to pick it up.
For those interested in the program, two representatives of the Texas Federal Surplus Property Program â€“ Lisa Hardin and Megan Sorley – will be presenting information on the program at the following upcoming events:
West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Annual Conference & Business Meeting in Odessa, April 23-25, MCM Grande Hotel and FUNDome, 6201 E Business 20, Odessa. For more information, contact Swisher County Judge Harold Keeter at 806-995-3504.
North & East Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Annual Conference & Business Meeting in Galveston. May 20-23, Moody Gardens Hotel, 7 Hope Boulevard, Galveston. For more information, contact the TAC Judicial Education Department at 800-456-5974 and ask for Michele Mund or Michele Ewerz, or contact Polk County Judge John Thompson at 936-327-6813.
South Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association Annual Conference & Business Meeting in San Antonio, June 18-21, Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, San Antonio. For more information, contact Webb County Commissioner Jerry Garza at 956-523-4625.