AUBURN — Director Diane Doe said that simply putting the Share Center's name on a Craigslist advertisement offering desks and office furniture free for the taking would have cleared up a lot of confusion.
"I'm sorry that didn't say 'Share Center,'" Doe said Tuesday. "It certainly should have, but it was sent out by a board member. I didn't see it until now."
Instead, the vague ad led many to believe the School Department was trying to unload old furniture and soak taxpayers for the cost of replacements Saturday morning. That's not what happened, Auburn School Business Manager Jude Cyr said.
"It looked like we did it, that it was sponsored by us, rather than the truth — that it was using our space," Cyr said.
The Share Center is a Lewiston-Auburn office supplies and dry goods clearinghouse. It's a distinctly managed and funded private nonprofit, monitored by the Auburn School Department.
The center takes donated dry good supplies from area businesses. Those include office supplies, rolls of paper, tape, stickers and arts and craft supplies, mugs and furniture. Schools, teachers and area nonprofits can come in and take supplies for little or no charge.
The center was in the old Great Falls School until 2011, when part of the building was demolished. Day-to-day operations moved to a temporary building on the East Auburn School campus, with larger items stored in vacant mill and office buildings and warehouses around Lewiston-Auburn.
Doe said the Auburn School Department has let the Share Center store the furniture — old desks, tables and filing cabinets donated to the center by school districts from as far away as Knox County and from local businesses that closed or remodeled — in the department's 33 Industry Ave. bus maintenance facility for the past few years.
"I can't say there was no Auburn school stuff in there, but I will say a lot came from other area schools," Doe said. "But most of it came from area businesses."
Now, with the Auburn privatizing much of the school's bus operations, the department wants that space back.
"We needed to get this done and take care of it," Doe said. "You get donations you can keep for a period of time. Some of it's not in good enough shape, so we recycle for scrap. Some of it is good shape, but the furniture doesn't fit with the classroom any longer, so it sits here until things come around again. And some of it just doesn't get used."
The Share Center posted the ad Saturday, Aug. 17, on Craigslist, offering free school and office furniture. It never mentioned where the furniture came from or to whom it belonged.
"If people just asked questions rather than make assumptions, we would have told them," Doe said.
Cyr said he learned about the sale Saturday morning, when concerned residents began calling him.
"I had to really think," Cyr said. "I knew the Share Center was planning something for later in August, but I didn't know when it was scheduled."
The space was also being used to store school equipment such as snowblowers. Those were not included in the free takeaway offer, which added to the confusion.
"They were supposed to be kept behind yellow tape," Doe said. "We went through with school staff to identify what was going and what was not. None of the school equipment was part of the giveaway."