State goes online to auction surplus items

December 29, 2008
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LANSING — High-end jewelry, a mink coat, sports card collections, a passenger trolley and even an almost-finished house — online shoppers nationwide are bidding on items from around Michigan.

But it’s not on eBay or Craigslist. It’s on MiBid, the state Budget Office’s online auction Web site, which offers a wide variety of used items to the highest bidder. 

“We’ve been doing online auctions since August 2000, but have really moved to doing most of business online in the last six years,” said Kassie Kretzschmar, director of communications for the Department of Management and Budget. “Last fiscal year we did $2.3 million in gross sales online.”

Items for bid include electronics, tools, office furniture and vehicles, all of which generate revenue, she said. Among the items are things confiscated by police agencies, seized for child support and even property abandoned in airports, she said.

For example, the Hamburg Township Police Department in Livingston County began auctioning old evidence and property seized in drug forfeitures on MiBid about two years ago, including expensive jewelry and watches, said Sgt. Gary Harpe.

“This is property that really has no value to us but has value to somebody,” he said.

The department also auctions off its unneeded motorcycles and patrol cars, Harpe added.

“We may only receive a few thousand dollars for it, but it’s a huge help,” he said. “In today’s financially poor times, it’s a way to generate revenue for our police department. Any money we receive is certainly a help.”

The Clinton County Road Commission said it’s hoping MiBid is more cost-effective than paying to publish advertisements. 

Road commissions everywhere are trying to find money, said Pat Wysong, the road commission’s director of finance.

Clinton County is auctioning cubicle walls, printers and ink cartridges that would otherwise be disposed of, she said.

“For us, it would be a matter of throwing them in the wastebasket or seeing if there’s somebody out there that can use them,” Wysong said. “For us, this is basically an experiment to see if this is an economical way to remove no longer used items.”

But MiBid isn’t used only to generate revenue. In September, Ingham County began using the service to auction items seized from parents as a means of paying their overdue child support, said the county’s Friend of the Court, Shauna Dunnings.

“The only property we would seize would be to pay outstanding child support obligations,” she said. “We don’t generate money from this.”

However that’s not a common practice and has been used only in extreme circumstances, she added.

Kretzschmar said, “With our economy the way it is, people are going online to look for the best deal.”

MiBid can be found at www.michigan.gov/surplus

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