If you ever need a used fire truck or police car, just look for a city auction near you

Towns raise cash, unload surplus supplies

FLORENCE, Ky. -- Jeff Dixon walked away from the Florence city auction Oct. 12 with his own fire truck.

"Who wouldn't want it?" he grinned as he walked over to pay the cashier the $4,400 he had bid for the 2001 Seagrave Meanstick 75' Quint fire truck.

It was the biggest item at the annual city auction, although not the most expensive -- that honor went to a pretty hot looking 2006 white, black and chrome Harley-Davidson FLSTN/I cruiser that netted $6,500.

(According to Florence City Clerk Erin Courts, the Blue Book value was $10,800.)

Auction attendees lean against the fire engine that was sold at the Florence city auction.

It's part of the way Florence, and other cities, townships and counties, recoup some of their investments when property ranging from cars to playground equipment to rusty filing cabinets is no longer needed.

Many governments, however, have traded traditional auctions, where items are gathered at one location and an auctioneer takes bids, for web-based auctions, where surplus items are sold off throughout the year.

Newport, for example, should be posting an auction next week, according to Amy Beth Able, city clerk.

"We just declared several items as surplus," she said, "and in the next week or so we'll have a link to the auction site (from Newportky.gov to GovDeals)."

Able said the last city auction netted about $14,000, "but that was exceptionally unusual," she said. "We had 11 vehicles for sale."

This time around, Newport residents, as well as anyone on the web, will find a few police cruisers and older trucks in various working conditions along with some old office supplies, such as file cabinets. The city puts the money from the sales back into its general fund.

Florence, however, has stuck to tradition, and with nearly 70 people (mostly men) in attendance on Wednesday, sold everything from the fire truck to barely functional Ford Crown Victorias (Ford quit making them in 2011) to old computers and park benches. An old washing machine, looking like it belonged in the dump, was among the oddities. (It didn't sell.)

Florence netted $36,400 (absent the auction company's take of $4,200), Courts said. The net sales vary year to year, ranging from about $31,000 to $13,000 and $15,000 in recent years. The money goes back to the general fund.

Park table tops and trash cans were also for sale at the Florence auction.

Smaller communities in the region have less to sell in any given year.

Fire Chief Mark Ober from Anderson Township said the township uses a third party to run its web auctions because it's less expensive than hiring an auctioneer.

The township brought in a little more than $6,000 in 2013 and about $3,000 in 2014, he said. Nothing was auctioned in 2015.

Anderson does have two double-wide trailers that will be going to auction for a minimum bid of $7,500, he said. They were used for training space at a firehouse the city closed.

Like other towns, anything that doesn't sell is destroyed or sold for scrap.

Hamilton County likely has the region's mostly profitable auction site at hamiltoncountyohioauction.com, where it lists more than $1.7 million in sales (though no time frame is offered.)

Sycamore Township's Safety Service Director Patrick Ross said Sycamore rarely has items to sell, but when items do become available, the township uses its website to link to an auction site.

But, really, what does one do with a used fire engine?

Dixon, who bought the Florence truck, said he owns a fabrication shop in Cincinnati. He plans to rip off the ladder and other parts and fabricate the truck for a large construction company that does government work.

The only other bidder, who declined to give his name, wanted to use the ladder rig for tree work. He had hoped to buy it for $100.

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