An auction is under way as the federal government works to dispose of temporary housing units that have served as home for victims ousted by flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee.
Twenty-four of the dozens of trailers brought to Cobleskill last year by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are being offered to the highest bidder.
The highest bid was at $1,510 Wednesday afternoon for one of the smaller units, according to the website of the U.S. General Services Administration, which handles property disposition for the government.
FEMA spokesman Matthew Russell said each temporary housing unit cost the government between $20,000 and $25,000.
The website describes the THU as a 2008 TL Industries “Park Model,” a 40-foot-long, three-axle unit with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Those being auctioned have been used so they may require repairs, according to the GSA website.
Those interested in the trailers, however, should know they are not being offered for use as a permanent residence. Russell said buyers could use them for purposes such as a fishing or hunting camp, as a camper or for storage.
By mid-April, 96 of the 127 THUs that FEMA brought to Cobleskill in the wake of the disasters were occupied. Thirty-one had been returned as of April 23. Some were provided to government agencies, and those that remain are on the auction block.
Russell did not have details on what government entities received a THU, but Schoharie County is getting two of them, county Emergency Management Director Colleen Fullford said. FEMA donated two of the units to the county free of charge, she said.
One will be used by the offices of the fire coordinator and the sheriff — both of which were displaced by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.
Fullford said the fire coordinator’s office will make use of one of the units for meetings.
The sheriff’s department — with all its operations now crammed into the second floor of the public safety facility in Schoharie — will be able to interview crime victims in private once the unit is in place, she said.
In the weeks after the disaster, Fullford said county officials worked to impress upon FEMA the need for housing, and she said the process to get them in place was not quick. Some of the first victims to get a THU in Schoharie County moved in Oct. 24, roughly 57 days after floodwaters routed hundreds of people in the Schoharie Valley.
“Once they got here, though, I think they did a good job in making sure that those people that truly didn’t have any other option were given the opportunity,” Fullford said.
FEMA will keep the trailers that were not used and transport them to another staging area to await the next disaster. Those that were occupied by flood victims are now being auctioned off.
People interested in bidding on a FEMA trailer can find them on the auction website of the U.S. General Services Administration at gsaauctions.gov. Once there, type the words “FEMA Park Models Cobleskill” and the units will appear. Clicking on the unit will bring details on how to sign up and start bidding.