BRATTLEBORO -- The Vermont Economic Development Authority has scheduled a public auction for the equipment previously owned by Carbon Harvest, a now bankrupt company that promised to produce food and energy at its facility near the Windham Solid Waste Management District.
VEDA, a statewide economic development finance lender, provided a $360,000 loan to Carbon Harvest in 2009 to help finance the energy producing equipment. Two years later the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation, VEDA's farm loan arm, provided Carbon Harvest with another $450,000 for the greenhouses and aquaculture equipment.
Now VEDA is putting all of the equipment up for auction as it attempts to recoup some the money that it loaned former owner Donald McCormick, who declared bankruptcy in April 2013. The public auction will be held Tuesday, April 29, at 10 a.m. near the former Carbon Harvest greenhouses and aquaponics facility at 327 Old Ferry Road.
VEDA Executive Director Jo Bradley declined to divulge how much money McCormick still owed, nor would she estimate the value of the equipment.
"The worth of the assets will be determined by who pays what for them," she said. "I can't speculate."
Bradley said generally VEDA does well with its large loans, with a loss rate of about 1 percent.
"That's pretty good," she said. "There are some who would say that it should be higher because we are an economic development lender, and others who say it should be lower because you are a banker. The challenge is in finding that balance between economic development and prudent lending."
VEDA has been negotiating with someone to purchase some or all of the equipment. Bradley gave no details about those negotiations, saying only that if the talks fall through before April 29 any or all of the equipment will be sold to the highest bidders.
McCormick launched his project in October 2010, promising to build a closed-loop energy-to-food system that turned methane gas from the landfill into electricity. The excess heat produced, McCormick said, would warm a greenhouse that would produce vegetables, fish and algae.
But McCormick's plans never came to fruition. As his money ran out, most of the employees at the Brattleboro facility were laid off in October 2012 and McCormick was removed as an officer of the company in January 2013. The company filed for chapter seven bankruptcy protection in April 2013.
Included in the auction will be the 14,400 square-foot greenhouse, complete algae culture and hydroponic systems, packaging materials, a microwave oven and a 1998 Polaris snowmobile
The town of Brattleboro also lent McCormick $40,000 for his project. The town sued McCormick last year to try to get back the approximately $14,000 he still owed, but a judge threw out the town's suit after McCormick declared bankruptcy.
"I don't think the town is expecting to get anything from the auction," said Brattleboro interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland. "Our case has been dismissed and at this point it is unlikely the town will be repaid."
For a full list of the equipment available at the April 29 auction go to www.theauction.com and scroll down to the April 29 lisiting.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.