Hector Ortiz stood against a chain-link fence near the back of the warehouse parking lot watching as others bid. Even though nothing caught his interest on this day, Ortiz said he always comes in search of a good deal.
Four years ago, Ortiz moved north from Texas with his wife and 2-year-old daughter when he landed a full-time construction gig. Before his first day of work, Ortiz went to the surplus auction with $5,000 in his pocket in hopes of finding a pickup. He bought one for just less than that.
“It's still my favorite truck I've ever owned,” Ortiz said. “It was ugly and beat up and I worked on it a ton but it allowed me to get to work and provide for my family. We didn't have much money and that truck was a blessing.”
In addition to the conducting the monthly auction, the surplus properties division also helps small state agencies obtain surplus federal equipment they might not otherwise be able to afford. The division acquires the property, some of it a bit off the wall, from federal agencies and then makes it available to local governments at little cost.
The property includes everything from huge road graders, semis, trenchers, snow plows and tank haulers to a hot dog vending cart, football helmets and pads, a dance floor, an eye test machine and crash test dummies.
The program also provides sheriffs and smaller police agencies rifles, handguns and shotguns. Some counties have even been able to acquire Vietnam-era helicopters. Most of the weapons were Department of Defense hand-me-downs.
“The whole concept is to prevent the tax payer from paying twice for things we already own,” said Oran Redden, who runs the facility.
“It's obviously far cheaper for them to get it from us instead of buying new because they can get things for pennies on the dollar through this program,” Redden said.
“It's the year round garage sell for government. You come and see what you can find and if you want it, it's yours.”