SALINE COUNTY -- Spring cleaning is a time for getting rid of old or unused items, and one Saline County commissioner says the county has many unused items taking up space he'd like to auction.
That includes a large room filled with caskets, about 80-85 in all. And yes, they are unused.
"I have to admit, I was sort of stunned," Commissioner Wes Sherrod said.
Sherrod has been dedicated to helping the county out of its poor financial shape since taking office. He's a big believer in making the county more attractive to businesses and cutting wasteful spending, so he said he has been looking at multiple ways to either save the county money or bring in more county revenue.
After he realized the county owned the property and buildings formerly occupied by Denny & Simpson on South Feazel Street, and that old and unused county property was stored on the property and in some of the buildings, he had an idea.
Sherrod said he thought the county was long overdue a surplus property sale. The strategy was twofold, he said.
The county could make some money by selling old police cars, other vehicles and equipment stored on the property.
"If there's a way to save or bring in $20,000 here, and $20,000 there, it will add up. And we're at the point we need everything we can get," Sherrod said.
Currently, the county pays for utilities to be connected to at least some of the buildings there. If the county no longer needed to store equipment at the site, it could sell the property, hopefully to a business willing to move or start up in Harrisburg.
That would relieve the county of paying for utilities and more importantly, get the property bax on the tax rolls, Sherrod said.
"It's a great property and it's in great shape," he said. "I think there's a business out there that could be a perfect fit, maybe more than one."
He was in for a surprise, though, when he went to survey what surplus property was on site.
One room was filled with new caskets, stored upright, to the point that a person can't walk through the room. He said between 80 and 85 caskets are in the room, and he set about finding the story behind the caskets.
Apparently, about 14 years ago, the city of Harrisburg believed it was going to have to "do something" with remains inside the largest mausoleum in its Sunset Lawn Cemetery. At the time, it was believed that the remains would have to be placed into new caskets. A casket company donated a large number of caskets to the city, according to former Harrisburg city commissioner Mike Weirauch. Weirauch, at an earlier city council meeting this year, said while the caskets were new and unused at the time they were donated, they might have some cosmetic defects.
"They are good caskets, but they're sort of the 'scratch-and-dent' models," Weirauch said at that meeting.
However, the caskets were not needed, and the county agreed to store them on behalf of the city, Sherrod said. After that, they were forgotten.
At the March Saline County Board regular meeting, Sherrod said he had reached an informal agreement with the city that in selling the caskets, the county would split money evenly with the city. County board member Bruce Tolley suggested to Sherrod that he determine whether any previous agreement existed regarding storage of the caskets between the city and the county and how much revenue would be earned by each entity.
Sherrod said he is in the process of coming up with a date for the surplus auction. The auction likely will include some small acreage owned by the county, he said, and he has contacted county schools to see if they, too, have surplus property to auction. By having more items in total, all parties would be more likely to benefit, Sherrod said.