DO NOT DELETE - KEITH - State's Surplus Store a Sale Unlike Any Other

9 years 9 months 4 weeks ago Sunday, November 28 2010 Nov 28, 2010 Sunday, November 28, 2010 5:37:55 PM CST November 28, 2010 in News
COLE COUNTY - Missouri's yard sale is bigger than yours.

The state's surplus store has dozens of rows of shelves and acres of outside space. Missouri sells everything from Army generators to baby wipes, police cars to pianos. The store has seen just about everything pass through its doors, including controversy.

State departments, schools and charities are eligible shoppers, and the items are put on deep discount -- 10 to 15 percent of the original cost, Purchasing Director Jim Miluski said.

"This property is low-cost property," Miluski said. "When you're operating in a tight budget time, it allows you to extend your budget dollar further."

Those savings weren't lost on Donna O'Neal, the band and choir director at Cole R-V High School in Eugene, about 20 miles south of Jefferson City. A worker told O'Neal about a baby grand piano that had come into the store. She had been looking for months, but the $5,000 price tag was too much for her small budget.

She got the baby grand, "the Cadillac of all pianos," for $250, she said.

"When I found the cost on it, I really didn't expect much," O'Neal said in the school's theater, four days before a choir concert during which she would show off the piano to hundreds of parents. "I thought, 'What can you get for $250?' So I was very pleasantly surprised."

Besides a few scrapes and minor missing parts, O'Neal said it sounds perfect.

The state makes between $1 million and $1.2 million a year through the store, Miluski said. That money gets funneled back into buying more federal property and transporting it to Cole County. It doesn't go into the state's general fund to cover other needs.

At a place where you can find just about everything, even controversy has found its way in. A 2004 audit from then-state Auditor Claire McCaskill's office revealed the state was selling old computers without wiping personal data from them. Two-thirds of the computers tested that year had personal data on them. On two thirds of those, the information was sensitive, including Social Security numbers, bank accounts and medical records.

The state has fixed those problems, Miluski said.

"On every document that has a transfer of a computer, we require a signature that shows that computer has been sanitized," he said. Miluski said the computer sales are safe "to the best of our knowledge."

That's not the only way the store has changed.

The program, which is now on Route 179 west of Jefferson City, used to operate on the east side of town until the state's continued budget shortfall forced cuts. Instead of $35 million worth of inventory, the store now sits on $15 million. There are only three acres of space, down from 10.

It doesn't take state departments' unused property anymore, instead relying on the agencies keeping the items and hawking them through a government intranet.

"We have to operate in a more efficient manner," Miluski said.

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