Much ado... Much ado...

Tonight my friend Todd Epp is posting again over at SD watch on the Attorney General getting rid of some old furniture. Lately, Todd's getting as bad on dumping steel desks as I am about Stan Adelstein turning on the GOP:

Can you imagine the screaming and hollering if a Democratic governor or attorney general (if that ever happens again in this state) simply threw out a bunch of perfectly operative office equipment then scuffed up the place in the process?

Given the lack of openness in our state government, I doubt we’ll ever get the full story about this mini-scandal.

Read that here. Regardless, let me offer the counterpoint to Todd's opinion. The full story?

Admittedly, I don't have a response on the walls being scuffed up, but that's a common negotiating issue when the State leaves a lease. And if inmates scuff up walls on the way out, they also have expert inmate crews who go in and fix that stuff.

Regardless, looking at the furniture issue, I got some hot inside information on all of that disposed property. What did my spies inside the walls of government hear?

In response to Todd's DumpsterGate, someone compared the dollar value of the items dumped to what those same items brought at the state auction held literally days before that.

The grand total? If I recall correctly, about a hundred bucks.

But the kicker? How much would it have cost the state taxpayers to get the items trucked up to Pierre for storage, advertisement to other agencies, etcetera, and eventual sale at the state auction? About $3900 I was told.

So, basically we dumped $100 worth of old crap in the garbage to prevent us from having to spend nearly $4000 of taxpayer dollars in dealing with it.

Sorry my friend. The only scandal, is that anyone thinks this is a bad thing.


nicholas Nemec said…
Pat, I don't believe your $3900 number. Are you telling me that I could get $3900 to haul a load of freight from SF to Pierre? If that is the case maybe I should quit farming and start trucking. Somebody is throwing the state a bid of around $17 a loaded mile. Or maybe they didn't bid it, or maybe they're just making up numbers and feeding you a load of crap.

I'll agree with you that used office furniture doesn't bring much at state auctions. Perfectly good desks and file cabinets usually bring only $5-$20. Which begs the question why the hell is the State of South Dakota buying new stuff when there is nothing wrong with the old stuff? Not very conservative.

If the AG had to have new stuff when the old was perfectly OK the least they could have done was but the stuff on the ground and let local non-profits/schools/individuals have it. That would have saved the cost of the giant construction site size dumpster the stuff was tossed into.

So yeah I for one think the state is being incredibly wasteful here. And it's not a scandal that I think so. This is the type of thing that makes people shake their heads and wonder why government is so inept.
Charley House said…
Epp still raises a valid point - the state's system of disposing of goods with residual value appears to be broken.

Did the furniture really need replacing at a time when the state is stuck in a "STRUCTURAL DEFICIT" (to cite one of the administration's favorite whines)?

Or, if it did need to be replaced, why would it cost $3,900 to process the sale of this kind of used equipment? Must that occur in Pierre? Could the equipment have gone to another agency or state purpose? How can that process be improved?

It strikes me that, if this truly is a problem, it’s probably not so much an R vs. D problem as it is a bureaucratic problem. We could look at it as an opportunity to improve the function of state government. Or, fall back to the “much ado, much ado”, “because we’ve always done it this way” stance.
PP said…
Guys, that's $3900 includes transporting it to Pierre, storage costs for several months, advertising costs offering it to other agencies, and other factors in keeping it until finding out nobody wanted it.
Charley House said…
I understand what's in the $3,900.

Still, this raises legitimate questions about when and how the state disposes of property that has residual value.

I want lower taxes and/or more bang for my tax dollar. One of the ways to get that is through an efficient use of equipment: Equipment replacement decisions that are based on utility, not some arbitrary age basis; Equipment disposal that is done in the most efficient manner providing the highest rate of return or that allows equipment with residual value to be used by other government (state, federal, tribal, or local) or qualified charity or agency.

Of course, at the other end, we need to be careful we do not create rules or procedures that, in and of themselves, create inefficiencies (ie. “No paper clip may be discarded until after it has been offered to and rejected by three qualified departments or agencies.”).

The question is – Are we getting the most bang for our taxpayer buck or does the AG dumpster deal illustrate an opportunity for improvement?
PP said…
Charley, I understand where you're coming from.

They get rid of this stuff because it's unuseable anymore. Nowadays, they use systems furniture which allows for them to maximize space. if you use the steel desks, you have to have WAY more square footage per person.

The new stuff is compact, and allows for much cheaper rent per person on a monthly basis in the long run.
Charley House said…
Do the rent savings offset the new equipment expense? Maybe.

Still, I don’t think there are many opportunities for meaningful improvements in government efficiency in a small state like this. We should take advantage of an opportunity like this, where a government agency is tossing useable stuff into the trash, to look at how we manage equipment.
My God. Charley House actually agrees with me and he didn't call me a girls soccer coach from Hartford like usual! This is progress.

Todd Epp
Interior Design/Steel Desk Editor
S.D. Watch
Charley House said…
For the record I never used nor meant the phrase "girl's soccer coach from Renner" in a derogatory manner. I just plucked that from the several current and former job descriptions Epp notes for himself.

And yes, I believe agreement between me and the girl’s soccer coach from Beresford is the fifth sign of the Apocalypse.

The man raised a valid point, that’s all.
nonnie said…
I happen to agree on this issue too. I've seen too many gov't offices, state and federal, that get remodeled or new furniture or whatever when the old stuff is perfectly good and the old office is perfectly fine but someone decides they want "to upgrade." I never could understand this.

But to dump perfectly usable stuff when there are many struggling nonprofits or businesses that would be glad to take the discards is what I would term unforgiveable. Set it outside on the curb with a sign "Free." It would disappear and end up being used for decades rather than dumped in a landfill. This is such a no-brainer. Sometimes I do marvel at what a bureaucracry does in the name of efficiency!
Nicholas Nemec said…
I'll throw free storage in if you will pay me $3900 to haul that load of stuff to Pierre. I don't believe that someone couldn't do everything you say for less than $3900.

That stuff is not "unuseable". Give it away, don't throw it away. Someone or some organization would take it, and make good use of it. Renting a giant construction size dumpster and paying to have it hauled away to the dump is a waste of tax money.

Pat, maybe you're right that more people can be stuffed into cubicles in the same amount of floor space using "systems furniture", but show us the numbers on square footage office rental savings. That seems to be where you're saying the money is. Figure out how much the new "systems furniture" costs and how many months/years it would take for the reduced rent to pay for the new "systems furniture". That's the way to make the argument for new furniture.

A call to local talk radio for people to come down and get free stuff would have gotten rid of the old furniture by nightfall and avoided the cost of disposal.

I'm just trying to save some taxpayer money here but you haven't given me anything to hang my hat on that that this is an actual money saver for the state.

P.S. What does a "systems furniture" filing cabinet look like? How does it save floor space verses a regular filing cabinet? Or, maybe the future has finally arrived and the AG's Office has gone completely paperless. Yeah for zip drives!
Anonymous said…
I thought Epp was on vacation from blogging. Too bad he and his ego didn't stay there.
Anonymous said…
Epp, if you're SOOO BIG on openness in government, how about a little openness on the health of our Senior-but-silent-since-December Senator? Can he put together an audible sentence yet?
Anonymous said…
11:48, that's the problem with the Dems, the libs and their partner-in-crime, the Argus Leader. They go after stuff like dumping computers and a list of people who want to go hunting, but won't insist on openness when it comes to 1/2 of our representation in the U.S. Senate. You can bet they would be signing a different tune if it were Thune instead of Johnson who has been inaccessible for the past seven months.
Anonymous said…
I bet there are a lot of teachers who would like updated desks.
Anonymous said…
While the decision to purchase the furniture is the AG's, the decision on how to dispose of the old equipment is the responsibility of the Bureau of Administration. Regardless of the accuracy of PP's $3,900 quote, it would have cost more to bring it to Pierre than what they would have got through a surplus property sale. If this is the best that Todd (AKA "In") Epp can come up with, you Republicans have nothing to fear from him.
Anonymous said…
PP, I sorry but I don't understand why do the items need to be trucked up to Pierre for storage, advertised to other agencies, etcetera, and sold at a state auction?

Why couldn't they just give them to the Goodwill or Salvation Army in Sioux Falls? That would be a much better solution then just trashing them.

It just seems like a waste. Give Goodwill or The Salvation Army the chance to make some money that the local government is just going to trash.

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