Cape schools hold auction to clear out old building

Sunday, January 11, 2004

A science table for junior high students can be turned into a grown man's work desk. Several ancient computers can possibly be put together to make a workable one. Metal cabinets that once held student evaluations can safeguard tax returns.

And elementary school desks? Well, they're just desks, but at Saturday's Cape Girardeau School District auction, they were going for 12 cents apiece, so some people decided to load up their trucks with them just in case they might ever come in handy.

"It just amazes me," said Rob Huff, the district's chief financial officer. "Who knows what they use this stuff for? I guess you can never have too many desks."

For the first time in 15 years, the Cape Girardeau School District held an auction to sell surplus school equipment and supplies at public auction. According to Huff, the district needed to get rid of the items that had been stored in the old school district offices at 61 N. Clark because the building has been sold to Teen Challenge.

"We made the most off selling the building," Huff said, noting that the price was $300,000.

The event drew scores of people looking to buy whatever caught their fancy, and some just came to watch. There were hundreds of items for sale, from wood and metal tables and classroom dividers, to wooden benches and portable chalk boards.

There were microscopes and some exercise items.

"Chair-and-all, dollar-bill-dollar-bill-dollar-bill-dollar-bill," called out the auctioneer, who went from item to item barking out prices in machine-gun fashion.

"What is that, a military cot? A stretcher? I don't know what it is, but it's for sale. Who'll give me six dollars?" he said. "Hey, here's a shelf, it just doesn't have the wheels."

Winona Crampton, a first-grade teacher at Franklin Elementary, showed up to look for shelves or other things she might use at school.

"These are some nice desks," she said, standing amid a row of several hundred stacked student desks. "All of it's pretty nice stuff. I just came to see what I could add."

Amos Reid of Pocahontas came to see whether he could find a stainless steel table.

"I've been here 10 minutes and I haven't seen one yet," he said. "At a store it'd cost me a lot of money."

That's the point of an auction -- the bargains, along with competing with other people to see who can get the best deal.

Larry Martin of Cape Girardeau bought a science table and said he plans to turn it into a tool table. He paid $27.50 for it but said it would have cost three times that brand new.

Studying it, he became more impressed as he took it to his car.

"See, it's got wheels on it," he said. "This is great."

Martin doesn't go to a lot of auctions, but he likes them when he does go. He likes discovering things he needs at discounts.

"That's basically the point of all auctions," he said. "You never know what you're going to find. It's better to get there early."

Lynne Spriggs, the business manager for the school district, said that the items were accumulated from various school attics and when Schultz Middle School closed.

She said she won't know how much the school made until early next week. But the money will go into the capital projects fund, she said.

Teachers were given first shot at the items and were allowed to claim anything at no cost, as long as it would be taken for district use, Spriggs said.

335-6611, extension 137

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