Palmyra Highway Dept. Hosts Annual Municipal Auction

Wed May 04, 2005 - Northeast Edition

In 1985 as Nelson Cook began his new position as highway superintendent of the Town of Palmyra in Wayne County, NY, he sensed that it was time for a change. When he decided to host an equipment auction, Cook thought that it would be a one time deal. He had no idea that the idea would flourish and be going strong 20 years later.

The Town of Palmyra owned a gravel pit with outdated equipment, and the Oshkosh all-wheel-drive trucks sat unused much of the year. Because Cook was not planning to purchase new replacement equipment, trading the old machinery was not an option. In addition, the town’s experience with the sealed bid method of liquidating surplus equipment had been less than satisfactory.

Cook, therefore, decided to host an auction to sell the town’s surplus equipment and at the same time invite the surrounding towns and villages in Wayne County to participate. After interviewing three auctioneers he chose Roy Teitsworth Inc., of Geneseo, NY, because of the company’s expertise in selling construction and farm equipment.

Although only two other towns participated, the first Palmyra auction was a success and grossed $50,000. However, there were no definite plans to continue having auctions, but other towns in Wayne County expressed an interest in the sale, which eventually became an annual event.

Working closely with the highway superintendents, Roy Teitsworth Inc. developed a program that addressed the needs and concerns of the municipalities.

As the auction company became more involved with the municipalities, it noticed that the highway departments kept equipment beyond its usefulness and struggled to keep up with major repairs. Eventually repair costs became so expensive they actually exceeded the market value of the equipment.

The superintendents knew that the auction increased their revenue but they needed concrete figures for budget purposes and data to convince board members that this was the most cost-effective method to dispose of their equipment.

As the auction in Palmyra continued to expand outside Wayne County, Roy Teitsworth recognized that in order to adequately address the superintendents’ concerns, a full time sales person was needed.

In 1989, Cindy Wolcott was hired to work with municipalities to provide them with past equipment sales data, appraisals for budget purposes, and assistance in writing specifications for equipment purchases. By broadening the specifications, the equipment met the needs of the municipalities and at the same time increased the resale value.

Due to Cook and his staff, who were committed to act as host of the auction and be involved first hand with its achievements, the auctions continued and by 1995 reached $1.5 million in sales. The Palmyra Municipal auction has attracted municipalities at all levels including counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts and fire departments.

By 2000, the auction would produce more than $3 million in revenues, attract more than 175 municipal consignors and attract more than 1,000 registered buyers from all over the United States and Canada.

Cook believes that the growth of the auction validates this method as a viable alternative to trading equipment and sealed bids. However, he admits it takes a little elbow grease and time to get the equipment ready for auction, but the end result is increased revenues greatly needed by the town. Careful comparison over the years of his trade price versus auction price has proven the auction consistently produces higher revenues.

Cook continues to support his decision of hiring Roy Teitsworth, citing its equipment knowledge, extensive marketing program, commitment to the municipalities beyond auction day and professionalism.

Cook retired late last year but the town and its new Highway Superintendent Michael Boesel are committed to hosting the auction for years to come.

The concept developed by Cook was used as a model by Roy Teitsworth Inc. to set up auctions in other areas of the state. Several Town Highway Associations contacted the auction company and offered to act as host towns in order to bring this type of sale to their area.

Currently, Roy Teitsworth manages eight municipal auctions in central and western New York State. To offer better service to the growing number of municipalities, the company added Richard Gray, as an another salesperson. Gray has added a unique perspective to the program because of his background. He sold heavy equipment for many years until he began his position as highway superintendent for the Town of Geneseo in Livingston County.

This year the Annual Palmyra Municipal Auction will be held May 21, marking its 20th anniversary.

For more information, call 585/738-3759.