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Bidders give a second life to state-owned trucks, cars and kayaks at the state surplus auction

Early Saturday morning at the semi-annual state surplus auction, before bidding started, Anna Voglino lingered near a piece of equipment she wasn’t planning to buy, but that she knew well: a 2011 International truck.

“I plowed, paving, graveling, hauling material – you name it, we did it,” she said, looking with tenderness at the huge vehicle. “I would like for it to go to someone who will take care of it, like I tried to do with it, and use it for what it was made for.”

The truck is a brilliant orange, with massive tires. Voglino drove it for two winter seasons, working for the state as a highway maintainer. Like many retired state-owned vehicles, it was on a lot at White Farm in Concord, looking for a new home.

Twice a year, crowds gather at the decommissioned dairy farm to browse trucks, cars, lawn mowers, first-aid kits from decades past, and more. The farm also hosts online auctions, and sells goods seized from TSA directly to the public at their retail store.

A large orange truck used to plow and maintain highways sits in a lot.
Mara Hoplamazian
Anna Voglino's orange truck, which sold for $4,500.

Amy Farnum, who manages the surplus items, says many state agencies are required by law to give retired equipment to the program. And usually, the adage about trash and treasure holds true.

“When it makes its way here eventually, there’s almost always somebody out there that sees some vision for it, whether it’s taking parts off it, whether it’s scrapping it for metal,” she said.

This year, inventory was slimmer, Farnum said, as supply chain issues make it more difficult for state agencies to replace their old equipment. But excitement among hopeful buyers remained, and any waiting could be satisfied with some chicken tenders or grilled steak tips from the nearby pop-up J.R.’s Grille.

“It’s not like anything else, it’s got kind of a carnival-like atmosphere. But at the same time, people are looking for their thing,” said Jen Jones, who had her eye on a green tandem kayak for her daughter. She got the winning bid, at $300.

For Dean Weeks, the auction was an opportunity to get a car for his son, who is on his way to college.

“Right now, cars aren't very affordable, so we're hoping to find something affordable here at the auction,” he said. His winning bid was $7,750 on a 2016 Ford Fusion, which led its previous life in the service of the Department of Labor.

New Hampshire has held surplus auctions for decades, and William Clark – known by the auctioneers as Billy – has been in attendance since 1957. On Saturday, he was bidder number 1.

Clark sat observing the scene for most of the morning, but when a white Jeep Patriot 4x4 came up, he jumped into action. His own Jeep, he said, had broken down just the day before. Though the auctioneers called him out by name, he lost out on the car.

“I have to give up,” he said, after another bidder put up his hand. He says he’ll have to fix his Jeep instead.

About an hour after sales began, the auctioneers started intothe larger trucks at the back of the lot, including Voglino’s.

It only took one minute of bidding until the orange truck had a new home. Bidder 371 bought it for $4,500.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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