County workers shop for free – just watch for snakes
Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt wanted a wooden chair. Two women from the domestic relations office were searching for two maroon-colored chairs and mail slots. And two corrections officers hunted for a desk and file cabinet.
The county warehouse — a way station for unwanted furniture and supplies from county offices — is a trove of used items that county employees can pluck for free, as long as the items are used for county business. The shabbier items go to auction.
Several public auctions are held throughout the year — at the warehouse beside the sheriff’s office East Command on Burleson Manor Road, online and at an auctioneer in Pflugerville — and bring in an average of $250,000 each year, according to the county’s purchasing agent, Cyd Grimes.
The next auction, scheduled for July 24 in Pflugerville, is for vehicles, motorcycles and
He also keeps notes near his computer about specific items workers are looking for.
“They say, ‘You got a good file cabinet?’ Well, ‘good’ is a relative word,” said Matt Phillips, who works with Rollie in the warehouse.
“We tell them, ‘This isn’t Office Depot; this is office repo. You can’t be too choosy.’” other heavy equipment.
“We don’t throw much stuff away,” Grimes said. “Our main intent is not taking it to the landfill.”
Inside, the warehouse looks organized and clean, though Grimes and manager Dan Rollie said there’s a threat of rattlesnakes. Sections of file cabinets, desks and rows of chairs sit among a variety of other items, such as bikes formerly used by parks staff or unclaimed sheriff ’s evidence, pews, boxes of romance books donated for inmates but deemed inappropriate for them, and a paintball mask used in sheriff ’s academy training.
Over the years, unusual items have found their way to the warehouse, workers said, including houseboats and saws used in autopsies.
“We just have a hodgepodge of things here,” Grimes said.
“We really recommend that shoppers come themselves,” said Rollie, who calls county employees “shoppers” or “customers.” Sometimes he’ll take photos of items and e-mail them to county employees to save them a trip to the ware-
Jose Ortiz, a corrections officer, unloads furniture at the county’s warehouse. The next public auction of county property will be July 24 in Pflugerville; learn more at www.txauction.com.
Purchasing Agent Cyd Grimes checks out one of the more unusual items at the warehouse, a paintball mask used in sheriff’s academy training. ‘We don’t throw much stuff away,’ Grimes said. See more photos with this story at