FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 17, 2013) — The auction of equipment and inventory from the state’s now-defunct fuel lab recovered full value for the taxpayers and closed the book on a costly boondoggle, said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
The auction, which concluded Tuesday, raised $2,144,755, an unheard of number for such a project. The purchase price on the equipment to be auctioned was close to $2 million, said Director of Surplus Property Danny Ford.
“Getting full value for heavy and highly technical equipment that’s six years old is unbelievable,” Comer said. “We worked as hard as we could to scrape back every dollar for the taxpayer. I want to commend my staff at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture for their tireless efforts, and I also want to thank Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration for working closely with us to sell this equipment so the department can move on.”
The fuel lab was completed in 2008 at a cost of $3.1 million. At the time, former Commissioner Richie Farmer said the fuel lab would be a money maker for the state. An audit requested by Comer later revealed the lab was hemorrhaging almost $900,000 per year. Comer appointed a task force to study the lab’s operation, but the panel could find no way for the lab to be self-sufficient. Comer decided last spring to close the lab, auction the equipment, and contract with a Texas firm to test motor fuel samples, saving Kentucky taxpayers nearly $600,000 a year.
“My goal was to right this wrong and mitigate any damage that was done to the state,” Comer said. “We exceeded all expectations.”