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St. Lawrence County considers highway department changes

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators are mulling over whether to pursue a vendor management system for Highway Department parts to save money even while Civil Service Employees Association is already planning a grievance if the county goes ahead with the system.

Legislators recently listened to a presentation by Ronald P. Tiderencel, Otsego County highway superintendent, on his favorable experience over the last six years with Genuine Parts Company, the parent company of National Automotive Parts Association, as the manager of his parts inventory.

“I know it saves money,” Mr. Tiderencel said. “Volume pricing is their biggest savings.”

Mr. Tiderencel said his parts room was in disarray when he contracted with GPC. The company did a complete inventory, disposed of obsolete parts and implemented a system that used up county-owned parts before switching to those that it purchases at discount.

Other savings come from not having to send someone out to make a pickup or not paying a delivery charge and from curtailing thievery.

“The shrinkage just about went down to nothing,” Mr. Tiderencel said.

Purchases from local stores are still possible, he said.

“They will buy from whomever we instruct them to buy from,” Mr. Tiderencel said.

The vendor contract also allowed more time in the actual running of the shop rather than on parts management, Mr. Tiderencel said.

He estimated his county’s savings at more than $100,00 annually.

But not everyone was enthusiastic.

“This would violate the exclusivity of our bargaining unit so we would be filing a grievance,” said Amy J. Simmons, president of the county CSEA. “We’ve had a parts person for the last 25 years.”

The St. Lawrence County Highway Department has a parts manager, but her time is mostly spent on finding the best price, without the time to keep detailed track of inventory, Superintendent Toby W. Bogart said.

Having a vendor handle parts would mean the county would not have to maintain an inventory worth about $500,000. Other work could be found for the parts manager at the same salary, he said.

The contract could also be opened up to other government agencies, Mr. Tiderencel said.

Legislators agreed to consider a request for proposals, probably in April, allowing Mr. Bogart more time to come up with potential savings and to answer other questions, such as how sales with local businesses could be affected and how the county’s inventory would be handled.

“We’ll give him a month to do that,” said Legislator Donald A. Peck, R-Gouverneur, chairman of the county Highway Committee. “I think we should open a dialog with the union and see if we can reach an agreement.”

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