City plans to donate computers

Outdated computers will be given to people who need them.
Sunday, December 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:07 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

The city of Columbia used to dispose of its outdated computers at monthly auctions held at MU’s surplus property warehouse. Recent auctions, however, have brought as little as $10 per computer. City Finance Director Lori Fleming said a recent auction of more than 50 monitors brought the city less than $200.

A new Homes for Computers program offers a better way to discard the city’s outdated computers — by giving them away.

Under the program, approved earlier this month by the Columbia City Council, the city’s outdated computers will be donated to local residents in need. Those eligible will include people with disabilities, at-risk students and those from low-income families, according to a report to the council from city Finance Director Lori Fleming.

Tony St. Romaine, a purchasing agent with the Missouri Association of Public Purchasing, pitched the idea to the city.

“The main target of my thought was families without computers in the home,” St. Romaine said. “As someone who has put kids through school, I just don’t know how people with kids and without a computer in the home can do it.”

The outdated city computers are about 4 years old “and don’t have much value to an organization like ours, but they can at least run a word-processing program and be connected to the Internet,” St. Romaine said.

Fleming said that before computers are made available, workers in the city’s Information Services Department will wipe the hard drives clean of any data and re-install the Windows operating system.

“Families without computers in the home are already in the minority, and for families with school-age children without a personal computer, this places their children at a significant disadvantage when it comes to learning, research and preparing homework,” Fleming said.

Fleming expects that 50 to 75 computers will be donated to the program during fiscal 2004, which runs through Sept. 30.

The Voluntary Action Center has agreed to help the city establish rules for eligibility.

“We are looking forward to getting computers out to homes where kids can use them; it will be a really neat program,” VAC Director Cindy Mustard said.

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