The outdated floppy disks, scratched up desks and broken appliances already were paid for once with tax dollars.
Now residents can pay for them again at auction.
This time, they can take them home.
For months or years the dented chairs, old computers and broken washing machines sit in storage, until school districts and local governments sell them at auction to people who will tear them up for parts or bring them home.
Every year or few years, schools and governments put together a list of the old furniture, office equipment and electronics that are taking up space in storage buildings and plan an auction.
The outdated, broken or unneeded items come from classrooms and offices. The police department also contributes items, such as ladies watches, from its lost and found that no one has claimed.
The goal is not to make money. In fact, some sales have brought in as little as $700 in the past.
Local governments are required by Indiana state law to offer unused equipment and property to the public before donating it or throwing it away.
Some of the items can be bought at a bargain, but most are in poor condition or outdated. A washer and dryer for sale this year at Clark-Pleasant will probably sell for $100 because they need repairs, director of finance Steve Sonntag said.
But for buyers looking for fixer-uppers, or parts for craft projects, the auctions are the place to be. Buyers can get deals this year on TVs, a loveseat or an electric guitar — slightly used, of course.
In the next month, the city of Franklin, Edinburgh Community Schools, and Clark-Pleasant Community Schools will host auctions, selling everything from VCRs to a slushy machine.
Before the auction, a list of the extra items must be first approved by the school board or city council. The list is then sent around to all schools or government offices, which can take anything they want or need.
The items leftover are sold either at auction or in a garage sale style.
Clark-Pleasant hires an
auctioneer who sells them individually or bundles them with similar items, Sonntag said. The auctioneer gets a 10 percent commission on each item sold.
Franklin’s sale will be set up like a garage sale, and none will have minimum prices. Prices are set by what the buyer thinks the item is worth.
A Star Nacho Chip Warmer would cost over $400 online, but the one for sale by the city of Franklin could sell for $5. The warmer could have come from a crime scene but had no value as evidence, clerk-treasurer Janet Alexander said.
Not only are government items sold, but also lost items brought into the police station that haven’t been claimed. The police either find or have dozens of bikes brought to them each year that are never claimed, and those go up for sale with anything collected from a crime scene that didn’t have value as evidence and was not claimed by the owner, Alexander said.
The city has to hold these items for one year before putting them up for sale, according to Indiana law.
Franklin typically brings in more money from its sales than the schools because the city sells bigger items, such as cars. The last sale in 2012 brought in $29,886. The money went back into the general funds of the different city offices where each item came from, Alexander said.
Garage-sale lovers enjoy the sales, Sonntag said. They join scrap dealers and arts-and-crafts enthusiasts in bidding.
Clark-Pleasant and Edinburgh schools and the city of Franklin all have yearly auctions, but other governments and schools do not because they don’t collect enough items to sell. Johnson County has not had an auction in about five years, director of maintenance Jason Miller said.
Right now, the only items in the county’s storage are a few dozen chairs. The county has tried to reduce spending in recent years, and county offices are spending less to replace old items. Instead, they are hanging on to computers, desks and furniture longer.
“It’s not enough to mess with,” he said. “It wouldn’t even be enough to pay the auctioneer. With budgets, people have been reusing a lot of stuff.”
The city of Franklin has enough for an auction every year.
“If we don’t have an auction, the garage gets filled with abandoned bikes and toys,” Alexander said.
Unsold items are either thrown away or donated. Clark-Pleasant gives items that don’t sell to a charity that brings them to schools in Haiti. If the charity does not want them, they are thrown away, Sonntag said.