FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky has gotten back $2.1 million spent on equipment for the Department of Agriculture's now-defunct fuel lab through an online auction.
Danny Ford, director of the Kentucky Division of Surplus Property, said the sale that ended Tuesday afternoon exceeded expectations.
Bids had been coming in low on Monday, but quickly grew as the close of the online auction neared.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer had closed the fuel lab, saying it was a waste of money, and declared the equipment surplus so that it could be sold.
"Getting full value for heavy and highly technical equipment that's six years old is unbelievable," Comer said in a statement. "We worked as hard as we could to scrape back every dollar for the taxpayer."
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.
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, said privatizing the fuel testing program saved more than $600,000 a year. The agency has been paying nearly $200,000 a year to lease laboratory space.
Kentucky has held a series of surplus property auctions in recent years to sell old vehicles, heavy equipment, even airplanes, to generate money for government programs.
Ford said he was "elated" with the outcome of the latest auction. Comer said the auction had eclipsed his expectations.
"My goal was a half million dollars," Comer said.
Comer said he kept some of the fuel lab's equipment that could be used by other divisions, including computers, trucks and machines that could be used to measure the chemical content of industrial hemp, which he wants to become a legal crop again in Kentucky.