published Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force gets $250,000 from auction of seized property

ON THE BLOCK

Hand tools

Guitars

Acreage

Vehicles

Art objects

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force bagged about $250,000 from an auction of seized cars, carved statues and property Tuesday.

In all, about 600 people bid on 200 items taken from alleged drug dealers in the area. The most popular item was a 1969 Camaro, which went for $32,000. Someone paid $34,000 for some property along Highway 157.

Of the $250,000, 10 percent goes to the office of District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin. A small amount of money is used to cover the costs of court filings required to seize the property.

But most of the money will stay within the task force. Commander Pat Doyle said it will be used in two main areas. Since the agents cover four counties, they need money to pay for gas. And they must buy equipment used on marijuana and methamphetamine busts -- gas mask filters, microscopes, disposable coveralls.

"The list is pretty substantial of what we have to go through to bust a single meth lab," Doyle said.

The task force's annual budget is less than $150,000, he said. So auctions such as the one Tuesday contribute heavily to the support of the nine-person operation.

Rick Potts, a co-owner of Potts Auction Co., said he was amazed by the number of people who showed up for the event Tuesday. In addition to the 600 or so bidders, about 1,900 other people came just to watch.

Potts' company has put on larger shows, sure. But most of those are for farmers, and they're outdoors. Tuesday's event was at the Walker County Civic Center, and it was packed.

"It was exciting," Potts said. "We had so many people in the civic center, I thought, 'Man, I've never seen anything like this!' It was big."

Beyond the cars and property, guitars and around-the-house tools were some of the auction's hot items. And the people who gathered at the civic center made for an eclectic group. At least, there was more variety than can be found at the farm auctions.

"Some people wanted the guitars," Potts said, "some people wanted the cars.

"Some people wanted the truck.

"Some people wanted hand tools.

"Some people just wanted to look -- just for curiosity's sake."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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