County work­ers shop for free – just watch for snakes

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO &STATE - By Suzan­nah Gon­za­les

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

house.

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-

Laura Skeld­ing pho­tos

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

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