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HC&S equipment goes on the auction block

More than 400 lots of items from Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., including pickup trucks, machine shop and welding items and John Deere equipment, will be auctioned beginning today.

“There is something for everybody,” said auctioneer Joe Teipel of Oahu, who is working with auction house Global Partners to sell equipment from the sugar plantation, which closed in December.

The auction will continue on Thursday and will focus on heavy equipment that day. It is set to run from 10 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. both days, at the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului and also online at gaauction.com. Mill and other large equipment will not be auctioned this week.

Those wanting to bid online must register. Those who want to bid in person can fill out paperwork at the door, Teipel said. Inspections were held on Monday and Tuesday.

Rick Volner, general manger of HC&S, said he wasn’t sure how the turnout would be today, but said that even though the equipment was repurposed for sugar operations, the items may be able to be used in the construction, mining and similar fields.

He doesn’t expect sugar operations in Brazil and Florida to be bidding since those plantations operate differently than HC&S did.

Volner said HC&S is seeking to lessen its inventory since it no longer plans on large farming operations, in which large tractors are needed to till the fields. But a farm on the Mainland may be interested in that equipment.

Volner said on Tuesday the company is focused on diversified agriculture on its 36,000 acres of former sugar cane fields.

Some crops the plantation has been experimenting with include sorghum, sunflowers and purple bana grasses. Cattle are also being raised.

Volner said HC&S does not have any monetary goal from this week’s auctions. But he said whatever money is made will be put toward diversified agriculture work and other expenses.

In December, sugar operations ended for the 145-year business on Maui. Its workforce of 675 at the beginning of 2016 has dwindled to around 20.

Parent company Alexander & Baldwin Inc. has cited losses of $30 million in 2015, with projections to lose more, as reasons for the closure.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.