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iBook Bargain

iBook Bargain

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If you don't live in, or pay taxes to, Henrico County, don't bother showing up for the county's Apple iBook sale Aug. 16.

Henrico's Board of Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance amendment today mandating that Henrico citizens and taxpayers be granted the first opportunity to purchase fixed-price county surplus items, including the 1,000 excess iBooks that Henrico plans to sell for $50 apiece. The computers were used for four years by public high school students in the county but are no longer needed by the school system, which is switching its high school laptop program to Dell this fall.

Supervisors voted 4-0 , with one member absent, to approve the change to Henrico County Code, effective immediately. The Board also voted to delay the iBook sale from its originally scheduled date - Aug. 9 - to Aug. 16. It will be held at the Richmond International Raceway that day beginning at 9 a.m.

Should any iBooks remain following that sale, the county would hold a second sale for all interested buyers, regardless of their residency.

In recommending the ordinance amendment, Henrico County Attorney Joe Rapisarda told supervisors that it makes sense for Henrico citizens to have the first opportunity to buy items that their tax dollars supported.

"All the property that Henrico County uses is paid for by Henrico residents," he said. The county's previous policy of allowing non-residents the opportunity to purchase fixed-price surplus items was never challenged, Rapisarda said - probably because most items do not hold the appeal that the iBooks do.

"There was no interest [previously] from people to say, 'Let me go first," he said. "Surplus property sales are not usually front page news, but they are now."

News that the county planned to sell the four-year-old laptops to the public spawned chatter on internet sites worldwide and prompted residents as far away as California and several foreign countries to consider attending the sale.

The attention also convinced Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover and Three Chopt District Supervisor Dave Kaechele to request late last month that the county consider changing its ordinance to give Henrico citizens and taxpayers first crack at the machines.

Those who attend the Aug. 16 sale should bring proof that they either live in the county or pay real estate or personal property taxes in Henrico. There will be a limit of one computer per person, and only cash or checks will be accepted.

The excess iBooks are the remnants of the high school portion of a lease-to-buy agreement that Henrico signed with Apple in 2001, Henrico Assistant Superintendent Dave Myers said. That contract provided approximately 10,000 machines for high school students beginning in 2001 and another 8,000 for middle school students beginning in 2002. Though the high school contract ended June 30, the middle school contract will continue for another year.

The school system intends to keep some of the high school iBooks for use as backups at the middle school level, Myers said, and it will use several thousand others for parts only. Another 1,147 will be sold to recent high school graduates for $50 apiece, he said, while the final 1,000 will be sold to the public.

More iBooks could become available in the fall, Myers said, after the school system determines how many it will need to keep as backups. Additional machines may be available next year as well, after the middle school contract expires. The Henrico School Board has not yet decided whether to continue with iBooks at the middle school level or switch to another vendor.

Several area residents who spoke at today's meeting asked the Board to consider making special provisions at the sale for current high school students, teachers and low-income residents.

But County Manager Virgil Hazelett told the Board that it would become tedious and unfair to make special provisions for a variety of people.

"I simply don't believe that we could do that," he said.

Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O'Bannon wondered whether the county should donate the computers to non-profit groups instead of selling them for such a low price, but Hazelett said that no organizations had requested any of the computers.

Only about 10 percent, ($30,000) or Henrico's annual revenue from surplus sales comes from fixed-price sales, General Services Director Paul Proto told the Board. Those sales typically include items such as office furniture and computers, he said. By contrast, the county makes about $500,000 annually from public auctions (which it holds only for vehicles).

Though the emergency amendment is effective immediately, it will expire in 60 days. The Board of Supervisors expects to hold a public hearing on the change at it Sept. 13 meeting, at which time it could vote to make the change permanent. Tell us what you think. Send your comments to

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