FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky could take a shellacking in an online auction to sell between $2 million and $3 million worth of equipment from the Department of Agriculture's now-defunct fuel testing lab.
Bids on laboratory and office equipment were coming in Monday far below original purchase prices.
High bids on eyewash stations ranged from $6 to $40. An explosion-proof refrigerator drew a $65 offer. And bids on a couple of desks stood at $2 and $3 each. Some of the more specialized equipment were fetching higher offers, including a device that measures sulfur levels in diesel fuel that had a high bid of $6,000.
Danny Ford, director of the Kentucky Division of Surplus Property, said he's hopeful that bids will begin edging upward on Tuesday when the auction nears its scheduled 2 p.m. EDT conclusion.
Ford said his office has promoted the auction online and in USA Today as well as by sending notices to refineries across the country to alert them to the specialized equipment that's up for sale.
"I know there are people who are interested and will wait until the last minute to bid," Ford said Monday. "We've got 368 bidders registered. It's gradually moving forward."
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer closed the fuel lab, saying it was a waste of money, and declared the equipment surplus so that it could be sold.
Comer announced the auction in May, saying it "was the most cost-effective path for the taxpayers." After closing the fuel lab, Comer contracted with Core Laboratories of Deer Park, Texas, to perform Kentucky's fuel testing at a cost of $300,000 a year.
Comer said privatizing the fuel testing program saved more than $600,000 a year.
One of the responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture is to test the quality of fuel sold in Kentucky as well as to test the accuracy of pumps to ensure that customers get the amount of fuel they pay for.
Comer, who was elected agriculture in 2011 and took office in early 2012, has been sharply critical of his predecessor's management of the Department of Agriculture. His predecessor was University of Kentucky basketball icon Richie Farmer, who served two terms as agriculture commissioner. Farmer pleaded guilty last week in a government corruption case.
Comer said earlier this year that the Department of Agriculture, under Farmer's leadership, had purchased more equipment for the fuel lab than was needed, which would mean that some of the items being sold may have never been used.
Comer put the price of the equipment being sold at just more than $3 million. Ford estimated that the actual cost for the equipment at closer to $2 million.