City looks to roll back vote on low-value property for sale
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | February 14,2013
Three months ago, the Board of Aldermen gave the Department of Public Works blanket permission to sell low-value city property.
Wednesday, the General Committee unanimously recommended taking that authority away.
In fact, according to Committee Chairman Christopher Robinson, the blanket authorization may have violated the city charter. He said the charter states that only the board may authorize such sales, except where the charter or an ordinance says otherwise. The board did not create an ordinance when it gave DPW the green light back in November.
Public Works Commissioner Evan Pilachowski had come to the board about selling a truck and a backhoe. At the same time, he had a buyer interested in an old typewriter.
“Somebody actually wanted it,” he said. “Somebody actually came into the office.”
Pilachowski said he sought the blanket authorization because there were a number of similar items he felt he could clear from his department inventory, but he was not sure he should take up the board's time getting permission for small-ticket sales.
“I think there's probably more things out there that could be sold than are sold now,” he said. “If you think about computer equipment — we might replace something and it'll sit in the corner for three or four years, depreciating in value until we have to pay to get rid of it.”
The motion approved in November capped the value of items that could be sold unilaterally at $200. Robinson said he was concerned that the motion included no way of assuring the values, opening the door for an unscrupulous city official to sell off municipal property to friends at massive markdowns.
Pilachowski said that had not occurred to him, but that it was a good point.
Robinson and other Aldermen present said that they did not feel the board had been burdened by such requests, and that if they did become frequent, they could set a policy whereby department heads wait until they have a number of items for sale and then approach the board for an en masse authorization.