AUBURN — The city may have a buyer for ice-chilling equipment at the old Ingersoll Arena, even though it’s not quite on the market yet.

Officials from Highgate, Vt., are eyeing the old Ingersoll ice cooler to replace the aging equipment in the town’s arena.

According to a report Tuesday in the St. Albans Messenger newspaper, the Highgate selectboard has set aside a $196,000 federal grant to purchase the equipment from Auburn at auction.

Auburn City Manager Clinton Deschene said that’s fine, but Ingersoll’s equipment is not for sale — yet.

“We’ve had tire kickers for a year and a half now, saying they want to buy it,” Deschene said. “One of the companies that did the work at the new arena said they wanted it. One of our other consultants thought they had a buyer. The youth groups said they found buyers. So there have actually been quite a few people out looking at it.”

But Deschene said the city has not determined how the old Ingersoll building will be used. Until that happens, the equipment won’t be sold.

“If a sale does go through, there would have to be a bid process, but we are not at that point yet,” Deschene said. “Before we can consider selling any of that old equipment, we’d need to have a public process to determine how we are going to use Ingersoll.”

Auburn began operating its new dual-surface facility, the Norway Savings Bank Ice Arena, last fall. A grand opening is scheduled for later this month. The new arena is meant to replace the Ingersoll Arena.

Deschene said contractor Preferred Mechanical Inc., working on the dual-surface arena, had asked if the city would sell Ingersoll’s old equipment if a buyer stepped forward.

“But there would have to be an entire process,” Deschene said. “There would have to be bids and a public process on the city side before that could happen.”

Highgate is a small town in northwestern Vermont, near the Canadian border and about a five-hour drive from Auburn. It’s been working to renovate its ice arena for two years, and Kim Gates, chair of the Highgate Arena Renovation Team, said the Ingersoll equipment would be a perfect fit.

“We have an arena that was built in the late 1970s, with the original cooling system,” Gates said. “We’ve been searching for a solution, and this would be a very good one and would let us keep an ice arena in the community.”

The system is designed to freeze the rink ice and keep it cool. The Ingersoll system is relatively new, about five years old, Deschene said.

“And if we don’t operate an ice rink there, we probably won’t have much use for it,” Deschene said.

City councilors have talked about using the facility as an indoor athletic field house, but Deschene said some comments in a community survey have suggested that the city keep it as a third ice surface.

“So we are very glad that a community is excited about having this equipment, but at some point have to decide what we are going to do with it,” Deschene said.

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