Advocates of limited government sometimes complain that Columbia County officials are a little too "activist."
For example, much of the early life of the stormwater utility fee was spent educating citizens on what it all meant to them, their homes and their pocketbooks. Most had never seen such a program, which meant all the information was new to them. Some opposed it, challenged the fee in court and ultimately lost.
Likewise, the county's smoking ban was a leap into new territory. No other local government has taken such a step. A local man has filed suit against the ban, which awaits its day in court.
The county's newest step into a new program promises to be much less controversial, but represents the same kind of outside-the-box thinking that is the hallmark of a government willing to take bold steps.
Just about everyone is familiar with Web sites such as eBay, which allow anyone with a computer to buy or sell merchandise from anywhere in the world through an online auction.
Like any government, business or household, Columbia County buys a considerable amount of equipment that eventually becomes obsolete, worn out or unneeded. Until now, the only method of getting rid of those items was either through periodic silent or sealed-bid auctions held at the county warehouse, or through live auctions reserved mainly for big-ticket surplus vehicles.
Such sales limit the number of potential customers to just those nearby. It's tough and expensive to get word out across the country about what's available, and it's unlikely that buyers will travel long distances to participate in an auction they may not win.
The county's procurement manager, Greg Woodlief, is proposing a new way of doing business: selling the county's surplus through a Web site called govdeals.com.
"There are buyers that specialize in the type of items that governments sell, and this makes it easier for them,'' Woodlief says. Those buyers, from any location with a computer hookup, can see what the county has to offer and make purchases through the secure site.
Not only can the county possibly get more for each surplus item auctioned because of the broader exposure, but it will cost 3 percent less per item for govdeals.com to run the sales instead of hiring a live auctioneer.
And rather than letting the surplus vehicles and equipment pile up and rust away at the county's storage yard while waiting for enough inventory to accumulate to justify holding a live auction, the items can be posted to the Web site and sold as soon as they're ready.
Sure, this isn't as unusual an idea as the rain tax or smoking ban. But it won't cost taxpayers or businesses any money, either -- which makes it just the kind of radical idea everyone should appreciate.
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