Keith Hampson pulls some old crosswalk signals out of a giant dumpster outside the City of Gainesville’s Resource Recovery Center (RCC). With a little TLC they are usable, he says, and he adds them to a pile of items that will go up for auction as surplus.
Hampson has been a program assistant for three years at the center that is part of Gainesville’s overall Zero Waste initiative. The goal is to modify existing policies, systems, programs and infrastructure in order to reduce waste and improve diversion opportunities.
Or, as Hampson puts it, “To keep stuff from going to the landfill.”
For more than 20 years, the city has prioritized reissuing and recycling items no longer being used by departments. Those items not wanted by city staff or departments had been sold at live auctions every six months in the Public Works lot. A range of items from vehicles to bicycles to office furniture and even clothing would go to the highest bidder, which is the city’s policy.
But now, the use of the online surplus auction site, GovDeals.com, has enabled the RCC to continuously list and sell items instead of accumulating inventory and hosting live events.
According to Hampson, those online sales have been averaging $200,000 per year since 2020 with more than 2,000 items sold to the highest bidder annually.
The RCC recently surpassed $1 million in sales since the online auction began.
A staff of five helps keep the center running including Hampson, three storekeepers and Coordinator Connie Thomason at the helm.
“The listings are going up constantly,” Hampson said. A quick look at Gainesville’s more than 125 items currently listed sale might surprise buyers who will discover a 40-foot bus, several pairs of brand new Air Jordan sneakers, heavy wood picnic tables, vintage trophies and computer towers, just to name a few.
The surplus staff works behind the scenes receiving and listing items daily.
It’s storekeeper Laurenda Thomas’ job to enter each item into the inventory and keep track of where it goes from there.
“Some of the items get reissued to city departments,” she said.
The rest, according to Hampson, get evaluated to make sure they are sellable. The staff photographs them, and sends the listing information to the auction website which collects a buyers premium of 12.5% above the selling price of each item for its service.
The website auctions have a far reach, according to Hampson who said that some buyers of small items can bid from out of state if they arrange for postage.
The biggest out-of-state sale Hampson recalled was from a buyer in Nevada who purchased 42 refurbished and retrofitted cooling systems from RTS buses which sold for just above scrap value.
“Someone came and picked them up,” he said, adding that a lot of locals bid, and he has regular bidders ranging in location from south Georgia down to Tampa.
Some items up for auction come from cleared evidence by the Gainesville Police Department. Hampson listed off bolt cutters, a hammer and some brand new items such as a Dell computer tower and TV.
Most of the chairs, desks, wood bookshelves and filing cabinets have been surplussed by various city departments. With less paperwork being used, the filing cabinets are stacking up.
Hampson tries to keep the inventory moving and get items reissued or sold within six months to one year from being turned in to the RCC.
“It’s a constant cycle,” he said, adding that he enjoys getting the chance to dumpster dive and he tries to separate out aluminum poles and generic road signs to sell in lots.
“They used to go in trash but now we pull them and sell them in a lot,” he said.
To see current live auction items being offered by the City of Gainesville and other municipalities nationwide click here.