Fontana finds on eBay: historic pier signs and a designer bag
FONTANA Want to own a little piece of Fontana history?
If you're prepared to pay for the privilege, you could be the proud owner of one or more historic municipal signs that once marked piers along Geneva Lake in the Village of Fontana.
But you have to move fast--bidding for the three individual signs on eBay ends at 8:24 p.m. today (Wednesday).
"I didn't think that the pier signs would be that big of an item, but (Village Administrator/Treasurer) Kelly (Hayden) did," said Village of Fontana Clerk Dennis Martin in an email. "I only made the starting bid $10 and they all appear to be on track for...$150 or more. I didn't think of people wanting them to decorate their lake homes or businesses."
On Tuesday afternoon Martin, who monitors the auctions, counted 357 viewers, 14 watchers and 28 bids for the first pier sign alone, with a current bid of $163.
The other two signs were doing brisk business as well; as of Tuesday afternoon, sign two had 34 bids, with the current bid at $154.50, and sign three had 27 bids, with the current bid at $158.50.
Bidding can get fast and furious "when the auction gets down to the final five or 10 minutes, especially if it is something (with) multiple 'watchers,'" Martin said.
Watchers can monitor the auction by getting digital updates of bids, or alerts when bidding is closing.
At a time when municipalities and sheriff's offices routinely hold auctions on surplus materials or goods seized by a court, Craig's List or an eBay auction is just another revenue venue.
Hayden said eBay is simply a more efficient way for the village to dispose of no-longer-used items and replace older assets, particularly because the items come up for auction so sporadically.
She said the money received goes into the village's general fund, and can be used to offset the purchase of replacements, whether that's a squad car or a printer.
The revenue received from eBay sales over the years has ranged from $106 in 2006 to $47,072 in 2009.
Using eBay was the brainchild of Ron Pollitt, the former Village of Fontana president who died in 2009.
"(He) brought up the idea when he was a trustee and the chairman of the finance committee," Martin said. "He showed me how to list items and set up a Village of Fontana account."
Over the years, the village has auctioned vehicles and old equipment, including police squad cards, front end loaders, department of public works trucks (including, Martin said, "the old command vehicle/step van that was an emergency department vehicle and then became a DPW sewer emergency incident command vehicle"), old fire department jeeps, old printers and camera equipment.
The village has also put up for eBay auction items that have been left in the village's lost-and-found department for several years--including a ski vest and a wake board.
Contributions have come from the Village of Fontana Police Department in the form of old evidence and items turned in to the police department--after a required time period has passed--including, said Martin, "a Louis Vuitton handbag, old speeding radar equipment, some 35mm cameras, lenses and equipment, an old Polaroid camera and film."
Often, there are tales behind the sales.
"One of the old fire trucks we sold was purchased by a fire department in Tennessee, Martin said. "We sold two old squad cars, both to people who drove to...Fontana from out East. One guy came from the Pittsburgh area and one from upstate New York."
When the Pittsburgh buyer had trouble with the title, Martin offered to help. In the course of the conversation, the clerk mentioned he wanted to visit Pittsburgh and stop at Primanti Brothers Restaurant ever since he'd seen the restaurant on an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Channel.
Not long afterward, the buyer, appreciative of Martin's help, sent the clerk a package straight from Primanti Brothers.
"Out of the blue one day, a corned beef sandwich showed up," Martin said. "It was very nice of him."
The Ford Crown Victoria squad cars generated a good deal of interest from bidders, but it was a Louis Vuitton purse that was most memorable to Martin.
"I had to answer about 30 questions on that item," he said. "And then when I sold it, I accidentally mailed it without a tracking number and I was very worried it would not arrive and I would get stuck with having to refund the purchaser's money...which was like $500."
That is why Martin prefers to auction the big-ticket items that are picked up directly by the buyers.
"No mailing or shipping duties or concerns to deal with," he said.
Get a piece of Fontana parking history
Two seasons ago, the Village of Fontana installed new pay stations for a Pay to Park system. The old meters were removed, and some of them sold, but, according to Martin, there are hundreds left to sell.
SIngle-head meters are being sold for $25; double-head meters for $40.
Some of the available parking meters are in the Fontana Village Hall on display, and the rest are being stored in the department of public works garage.
If you're interested in learning more about them, call (262) 275-6136.