Need a player piano? A stretcher? City auction will include doozies

Published 11:50 am Monday, October 24, 2011

Sitting in the warehouse of the City Hall Annex on Walnut Street is a unique piece of equipment for city government, a player piano. And it’s for sale.

The piano, which was donated to the Vicksburg Senior Center many years ago, is one of 201 items going up for sale when the city auctions surplus items on Nov. 5 at Katzenmeyer’s Antiques and Pets on Washington Street near Lee.

There are other odd items going on the block Nov. 5, among them an asphalt truck used to patch potholes in the streets and eight stretchers from the city’s ambulance service that were replaced several years ago.

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But the upright Pianola player piano stands out.

Vicksburg Senior Center director Jennifer Harper said she doesn’t know how long the piano, which has been replaced by a standard upright, had been at the center, or who donated it.

“It was here when I came here 10 years ago, it was a very generous gift,” she said. “The musical rolls that went with it were damaged six years ago, when the roof leaked over the room where they were stored. When we had piano lessons, we had so many students they couldn’t all use the standard piano. Some of them used the player piano, but they were limited, because it didn’t have all the keys.”

City purchasing director Tim Smith said the auction begins at 10 a.m. Nov. 5, and prospective buyers can examine the equipment starting at 8 a.m.

The auction is one of two planned by the city. The second will be early in 2012 and will include 1,168 firearms seized and recovered by the Vicksburg Police Department. The money raised will be used to buy new weapons and replace the department’s 100, 19-year-old 9mm Beretta semi-automatic pistols.

“I’ve got about nine pages of items (for the November auction),” Smith said, adding that besides the piano, other unique items include an ice maker, a vacuum pump and two sewing machines.

He added there are also 19 cars, several flat screen televisions, computer monitors and a Kubota backhoe.

He said the surplus city computers will be sold minus the hard drives, which were removed to protect programs developed for city business.

City officials initially planned to sell the guns to federally licensed dealers by sealed bid, but Police Chief Walter Armstrong said potential bidders who picked up bid packets said they preferred an auction, which would allow them to purchase the weapons they wanted instead of the entire lot.

Smith said he has received proposals from three auctioneers for the sale, and wants to meet with Armstrong to see if the auction could be earlier. He said the auction will be opened only to federally licensed gun dealers and the auctioneer must hold a federal license to sell the guns.

Armstrong, however, said he is not waiting for the auction to get new service weapons for the department.

“We have 700 (other) guns that are marked for trade,” he said. “We are contacting manufacturers to see if they are interested in a trade.”

He said gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Glock have offered to provide test weapons to help the police decide what style of weapon they want.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to trade and replace all the service weapons, and get backups and shotguns and rifles,” Armstrong said. “If not, hopefully we can replace the service weapons and use the money from the auction to get the backups and replace the rifles and shotguns.”