Sawmill auction brings end to an eraSome equipment will remain in Haywood County
A shout of “Sold!” brought the end to an era at Haywood Community College on Saturday with the auctioning off of the last of the campus sawmill’s equipment.
Since the college’s Wood Products Program and sawmill operations were discontinued in March 2003, HCC’s governing board has been working out what to do with the large amount of equipment still stored in the old building. As mandated by state law, the equipment that could not be used by other state entities was auctioned to the public as surplus.
But the machinery has quite a history in Haywood County, and one buyer was eager to keep it that way.
Kyle Edwards, owner of the Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley, bought “a whole lot” of the sawmill’s equipment, and he said his plan is to keep it intact and working for people in Haywood County as it had done for more than 30 years.
“I’ll saw stuff for myself and local people. Some of it might end up as a hobby, too,” Edwards said.
For him, the sawmill played an important role in his life because the lumber produced by the students in the Wood Products Program was what went into the Stompin’ Ground.
“That sawmill sawed all the lumber that’s in the Stompin’ Ground. I probably wouldn’t have been able to build my business without it,” he said.
The HCC Wood Products Program, which was once housed in the old sawmill building, was discontinued nearly 10 years ago because of reduced enrollment and a lack of funding, said HCC Director of Marketing and Communications Debbie Davis.
Established in 1969, the Wood Products Program featured a fully functioning on-campus sawmill operation built with donations from the Appalachian Lumberman’s Club, United States Plywood, Champion Papers, Magnavox, the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association and private donors. The Tennessee Valley Authority provided some federal financial assistance along with a grant of $183,089 from the Manpower Development Training Act.
“The program was created in response to regional need. The program served mills by salvaging circular saws by welding them as well as supplying paneling and flooring for Haywood County home builders,” Davis said. “Graduates found jobs in the lumber and furniture industries.”
The program reached the height of enrollment in 1975 with 82 students, but over the years, enrollment began to decline and state support became limited. Originally, the Manpower Development Training Act paid students a stipend while they were enrolled in the program, but eventually that funding was phased out. The college also had to start charging out-of-state students higher tuition to help support the program, and the North Carolina Community College System changed from a quarter to semester system, which meant it took students longer to finish the program.
Davis explained that the result of these changes was a sharp decline in enrollment, and the further withdrawal of special allocation funds by the state.
In 2003, the HCC Board of Trustees passed a resolution to discontinue the program because the operation costs outweighed the benefits to such a small number of students.
On Saturday, the remaining equipment, machinery and scrap were auctioned off as North Carolina state surplus.
“The state holds auctions all the time for equipment,” said Robert Riddle, state surplus property officer.
In fact, there is another large auction for NC DOT coming up Oct. 10 in Fletcher.
“It’s the legal way these items can be used or sold,” Riddle explained. “We try to find a public entity that will reuse (the equipment), but if we can’t, then it’s auctioned off. HCC wanted to put this out to auction to keep it local and that seemed like a good idea.”
The money from the sawmill auction will first go toward paying off costs associated with having the auction. The remaining funds will go back to the department where they originally came from for equipment purchases. If state funds were used to buy a piece of machinery, then the money from the sale of that piece will go back to the state. If college or county funds were used, then the money goes back to each of them respectively.
It will take several weeks to total up what was made from the auction and where those funds will go, said Karen Denney, executive director of Business Operations at HCC.
“I think the auction has gone really well. We had a good turnout,” she said of the crowd that showed up to bid on everything from huge pieces of equipment to smaller lots of tools.
It’s also good to know that much of the equipment, including most of the actual large-scale sawing machinery purchased by Edwards, will stay in Haywood County, she said.
Plans for the sawmill building and property have not been decided on yet.
For more information on state surplus auctions, visit www.ncstatesurplus.com.