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Surplus agency offers bargains on state stuff

DUNBAR, W.Va. -- Cathleen Salmons, an office manager at the University of Charleston, knows all about the bargains offered by the West Virginia State Agency for Surplus Property.

"We get excited every time we come here. We've saved a lot of money over the years," Salmons said Thursday as she and other U.C. employees loaded dozens of chairs for the school's faculty offices into a pickup. "Even the truck came from here."

Not many people take advantage of the agency's deals the way Salmons does, though, simply because they don't know they can, according to Elizabeth Perdue, the agency's assistant purchasing director.

"Anyone can come in here and purchase something," Perdue said. "Not a lot of people realize that."

That's why the agency hosted a Customer Appreciation Day on Thursday, extending its usual hours into the evening and reaching out to new customers while recognizing its regulars.

For more than 60 years, the surplus property agency took no-longer-needed items from state agencies, and sold those items to eligible organizations and the general public through a bid process. In 2008, though, the agency nixed the bidding requirement, switching to a direct public sales process that allows customers to more easily view and purchase property for a set price.

"We want to get the word out that we're retail now. You can come in and shop just like at a store," Perdue said. "It just made more sense to do it this way. It was difficult when customers had to place a bid and wait and notify us if they wanted it. Now, we can sell these items more efficiently."

One of the agency's resources is especially underutilized by the public -- its vehicle lot.

"Dealers buy a lot of our cars. But, the public can come here and buy the very same vehicles that they buy from dealerships without having to pay that markup," Perdue said.

The surplus warehouses, located on Charles Avenue in Dunbar, offer everything from vehicles and furniture to tools and computers.

"It's unlimited. We've seen a little bit of everything come through here," Perdue said. "We've had schools come in and buy computers to furnish an entire lab. They're always really pleased to see the prices.

"Our used computers sell for about $25 -- you have to put a hard drive in them, but still yet that's a great deal."

Loyal customer Ken Kemple said that, as a business owner, the resource has come in handy over the years.

"One time, I bought a van here for $1,000 because I needed to haul something out of state. I used it once, then sold it for a profit," he said. "Another time, I found a great drafting table for work. I still have it. Business owners especially can find really great bargains. I've found equipment here worth $6,000 for only $60."

The warehouses are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. As part of Customer Appreciation Day, Thurday's operation hours were extended through 7:30 p.m.

"We hear from people all the time that they can't get here because they're at work. If it would work out this evening that we get a lot of customers, maybe we could extend our hours one night a week. I really don't know," Perdue said. "It seems to be going really well. We've seen a lot of people today."

The agency also hosts public auctions three to four times a year and conducts online sales, in addition to statewide sealed bids.

The agency rakes in about $1.8 million to $2 million each year, according to Perdue.

"We're totally self-supported -- we don't receive an appropriation," she said. "We bring in enough to cover our salaries and overhead. We don't make a huge profit."

For more information, visit the agency's website.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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