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St. Lawrence County exploring vendor system for Highway Department parts

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CANTON — With the blessing of the largest union, St. Lawrence County legislators will consider a vendor-management system for parts used by the Highway Department to cut costs.

Last month, legislators heard a presentation by Ronald P. Tiderencel, Otsego County highway superintendent, on how he has saved money with Genuine Parts Co., the parent company of National Automotive Parts Association, as the manager of his parts inventory.

St. Lawrence County Highway Superintendent Toby W. Bogart wanted legislators to consider a similar arrangement, but the Civil Service Employees Association threatened a fight because it did not want to lose a position.

However, the union and county later agreed that parts manager Mary Jane Goolden could stay on with slightly different duties even if the county ends up with a vendor system. Instead of spending the bulk of her time chasing down the best price for parts, Ms. Goolden would be the liaison between highway employees and the vendor.

She would oversee the county’s interest and make sure billing is correct. She would take work orders and track the need for additional parts.

“She would make our shop more efficient,” Mr. Bogart said.

The primary savings through a vendor manager would be in bulk buying power.

“I think this has always been about procurement,” Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said. “I think when we can save money, we need to take advantage of it.”

Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, said the department should organize its parts — spread over multiple rooms and with approximately 30 percent in obsolete inventory — before it considered a vendor manager, but others said the county does not have the people to do the job.

Instead, the prospective vendor would conduct an inventory.

“I don’t think Toby’s staffed right now to tackle inventory that’s been sitting there 20 years,” said Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton.

Changing the layout of how parts are stored into a more centralized location could be difficult because of deficiencies in the department’s building on Park Street and because money was not budgeted for construction.

“I don’t know if we can physically alter the building,” Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg, said.

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