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Old Berg furniture auction a bust

Remaining outdated equipment likely to be scrapped

A “super low” turnout at the Saturday morning auction at the Meisner Center removed roughly 10 percent of the total amount of classroom furnishings collected from the old Berg Middle School building, Newton Community School District Maintenance Supervisor Jack Suttek said.

“It was not for lack of us trying to get people there,” Suttek told the Newton Daily News Tuesday afternoon, noting he was “disappointed” with the lack of attendance and the amount of equipment that was sold with the help of a team of auctioneers led by Jim and Warren Beattie.

Flyers and bulletins advertised an availability of 450 plastic-on-metal chairs, 10 wooden chairs, 28 blue padded chairs, 30 teacher desks, hundreds of student desks and chairs, filing cabinets with two to four drawers attached, differently shaped desks, heavy wood art tables, computer parts, monitors, keyboards, metal stools and nurse’s couches.

By the end of the auction, Suttek estimated the school district collected $895.

Beginning in the summer of 2018, principals and teachers from the six other campuses — Newton High School, WEST Academy, Aurora Heights Elementary, Emerson Hough Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Elementary — were given an opportunity to visit old Berg and look at furniture that was in the offices and classrooms, NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan said.

At that time, those teachers and administrators could claim any furnishings that they thought would suit their buildings. Teacher desks and chairs were distributed among the other campuses, for instance. Athletic equipment was also repurposed. Newton High School Principal Bill Peters took many display cases, Callaghan said.

“A great amount of the furniture that was in real good shape was reused throughout all of the buildings,” Callaghan said. “Kidney-shaped tables at the (elementary schools), specifically, went well. So any other furniture that was left was stored at the Meisner Center.”

Remnants of old Berg — minus the desks and tables, Suttek said — transitioned to the new building when it opened in January. Things like bookshelves, cabinets and custom-made furnishings still have a place in the upgraded Berg Middle School.

The day of the auction, items were displayed in a Meisner Center warehouse and stored in four semi-truck trailers clear over on the opposite side of the building. Close to a dozen people attended the auction. Suttek guessed the low turnout was due to the specialized market interest in dated school supplies, no matter the condition.

“Stuff went for pennies on the dollar,” Suttek said. “…You expect the worst. Hope for the best.”

On the bright side, he added, a new company that will be renting space in the Meisner Center purchased several desks and tables. Before the auction and the demolition of the old middle school took place, other furniture items had been removed and reused by other entities in the area.

Discover Hope 517, a ministry and substance abuse counseling center in Newton, uses lockers from the old Berg Middle School for its transitional housing tenants. Maytag Pool is also equipped with repurposed lockers to replace the unreliable plastic variants worn out from past seasons.

“The Newton Christian School also came in and they took out several loads of desks and chairs and tables,” Suttek said. “So, I mean, there were definitely some benefits. Now we’ve got a pile of stuff that nobody’s going to want. So unfortunately whatever people don’t take will end up, by the end of this week, going to scrap.”

The “cream of the crop” items, Suttek added, have already been taken away to repurpose in other campuses. The school district now has two choices: Keep paying a monthly rent on storage fees or turn in the remaining furniture for scrap. He said it’s not beneficial to the district or the taxpayers to keep paying storage fees for “outdated equipment.”

He said, “In a perfect world, we would have loaded the stuff on rail cars and then loaded on ships and taken to needy countries. But, you know, unfortunately, I’m not in a position to pay extra money to get anything like that done.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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