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From Street Signs to Vehicles, Pittsburgh to Auction Old Assets Online

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman said it’s been nearly a decade since he first drafted legislation for then-Councilman Bill Peduto that would allow the city to auction off unneeded assets online.

That idea is finally seeing the light of day as a similar bill received preliminary approval in council’s committee meeting Wednesday. A final vote is scheduled for next week.

Grants Officer Brandon Forbes was on hand to answer questions from City Council about the plan, which would end the practice of selling old vehicles and other large assets once a year at an auction.

“This bill is to enter into an agreement with (GovDeals.com) for a year to see if we can create a larger amount of revenue by selling these assets online as opposed to once annually in person,” Forbes said.

He said those auctions in the past garnered only a handful of bidders, but that online auctions through GovDeals.com will open up the bidding internationally. The company takes a 5 percent fee from each sale.

Gilman said the agreement will also allow the city to expand what types of items it sells at auction. Currently, the in-person auctions focus on old vehicles from the departments of public safety and public works.

“(On the site) there is everything from construction cones to the scrap metal of old parking meters to old baseball hats from the Public Works Department. You name it, it’s out there,” Gilman said. “You can see items you can buy for 10 cents up to $100,000.”

Gilman also asserted that in addition to bringing extra revenue into the city, the plan would actually save money.

“Rather than having the cost we have of storing and waiting for once a year to sell everything and process it, if there’s an accident and we decide a police car is done, we don’t have to sit there and hold it at a lot for six months until the next auction,” Gilman said. “We can just throw it on there, sell it for scrap metal, and get rid of it in a couple of weeks.”

Council President Bruce Kraus said he’s a fan of the idea.

“I like reduce, reuse, recycle whenever possible,” Kraus said. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Forbes said the program will likely launch in October.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.