County turns to online auction site
Tom Wiles isn't sure what he's going to do with a jail cell he purchased for $10 on eBay.
But, this week or next, Wiles plans to take his dad, Ted Wiles, to the old Leavenworth County jail to pick up the cell.
You don't just load up a jail cell and drive off, Wiles said, noting each cell in the jail is made of heavy sheets of steel that have been hot-riveted together.
"Dad and I went up and looked at it and scratched our heads a little bit and came up with a plan," Wiles said. "It's kind of tough because they've cut off the power to the building."
And, he noted, water from recent rains has left puddles on the floors.
Wiles, who is a former deputy for the Leavenworth County sheriff's office and now a part-time Basehor police officer, said he and his father will use a cutting torch to take down the cell. For them, it's not all that much of a challenge.
"My folks have a farm -- I grew up having cutting torches and welders," Wiles said.
Wiles doesn't have any particular plan for the cell right now.
"I'll probably end up putting it in the barn for a while and someday I'll probably find a neat use for it," Wiles said.
And though the old jail has plenty of cells, Wiles said he's not buying.
"I think I'm going to start with one cell right now," Wiles said.
It's likely that's fine with his fiancee, Katie Ussery. The couple plan to marry in January.
Wiles laughed when asked what Katie thought about his purchase.
"I got 'that look,'" Wiles said. "I think she thought I was half crazy trying to figure out what I was going to do with a jail cell -- it was pretty enjoyable."
Keyta Kelly, Leavenworth County's counselor at large, said the online sales are possible because of a change in state law.
"Before whenever you (a county) had surplus, you had to put it in the paper so many times," Kelly said. "I think the legislative session before this one changed it that so long as you adopt a resolution to the process and as long as it's posted on some medium -- on our Web page -- we're notifying the public so we can sell it through any means that we want."
And though some items are sold directly through the county, Kelly said the commissioners decided to use eBay, an online auction, for sales that might bring better prices.
One of the first items sold on eBay, a solid wood rolling pin long used in the jail kitchen, brought $44, Kelly said.
And just a couple of weeks ago, two walk-through size bank vault doors in the jail, brought in more cash.
One of the vault doors sold for $100, the other went for $207.50, Kelly said. The buyers, from Abilene and Arizona, knew up-front, from information posted on eBay, they'd be responsible for removing the doors and that the county would not be liable for injuries or damages incurred while moving them.
Soon, a triple compartment sink and an industrial sized gas kitchen stove, both from the old jail's kitchen, will be listed on eBay, Kelly said.
In the long run
County commissioner Dean Oroke toured the former jail Friday afternoon.
It's his guess, Oroke said, the building will have to be torn down at what he estimated would cost $150,000.
The former jail, a 1938 Works Progress Administration project, is a solid structure with a foot of concrete between each floor and 16-inch concrete interior walls.
"At first I thought we could salvage it (the jail)," Oroke said. "But then when I went back and started doing a cost estimate, to do all the components, we would have been up in the millions. Even if we modernized it and spent $2 to $3 million, we would still have a 1938 building."
The route to online selling has not been without a snag.
Kelly said the county was temporarily suspended from eBay after she bid on an item on behalf of county commissioner Don Navinsky.
Apparently, eBay noticed Kelly's name was connected with the county's eBay account.
"They said it's against the rules," Kelly said. "They suspended us and I had to e-mail them several times and now it's back on."
She said a seller can't bid on the item they're selling, because eBay may interpret that as shill bidding to raise the prices.