Portage is pursuing a central purchasing proposal. Officials there didn't even know who was buying how much of what when they began discussing this proposal.
Getting data on routine purchases of supplies should be the first step. The idea isn't to ration toilet paper for each department but to see how much of each supply needs to be ordered and when.
Then work on getting the best price for each product.
Because the clerk-treasurer's office deals with the city's finances, it makes sense to put that office in charge of central purchasing.
In fact, that's what Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham and Councilman John Cannon are proposing. Stidham's office, working with the city administration, is beginning a study due in February to see how a centralized purchasing process would work.
"It will look at ways of purchasing in bulk," Stidham said.
In that regard, think big — not in terms of spending the city's cash, but of working with other units of local government to get even better prices buying in bulk than one city can achieve on its own.
Cannon is using toilet paper as an example of what buying in bulk can accomplish. If the city buys from a single supplier and gets the same quality for each department, the city could save money and time and could better watch for waste.
The same is true for other products as well.
And paying a single bill from a single supplier should take the clerk's office less time than paying bills for each department, Cannon said.
Cannon and Stidham said they would approach Portage Township Schools and other local government agencies to see if they're interested in a centralized purchasing co-op and what benefit that might have for the city. Look beyond the township's borders, for maximum potential savings.
Buying in bulk generally saves money, and buying even more generally lowers the unit price. That could yield better bargains than the city could negotiate on its own.