Nearly three dozen people showed up Thursday morning in Courtroom 1 of Ellis County District Court for the sheriff’s sale of commercial properties in Hays and Rooks County owned by the indebted companies of Plainville businessman Chuck Comeau.
The properties were auctioned at the request of Sunflower Bank N.A., which held two mortgages taken out by several of Comeau’s companies.
Thursday in the courtroom, Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin read the property descriptions, one for a building in Hays, and the others for seven tracts in Plainville.
Sunflower Bank representative Aaron Martin, with the Salina law firm Clark Mize & Linville, opened the bidding at $207,288.67 on behalf of Sunflower for the building that is the former location of Comeau’s Oak Street Plaining Mill, 201 E. 12th St., in downtown’s Chestnut Street Historic District.
One bidder offered $289,000.67, but that was quickly bested by Bank of Hays with a bid of $377,000.
Bank of Hays CEO Randy Walker, who was present for the bidding, declined to comment on what the bank will do with the building.
Comeau’s Liberty Group Inc. renovated the historic red brick Hays Bottling Works building on 12th Street and leased it to Aflac insurance company, which uses it as a statewide training center to recruit and develop new agents.
The seven properties in Plainville were sold together. Sunflower won the package with its opening bid of $328,209.45, which went unchallenged.
“Sunflower has a mortgage on all the properties together,” Martin said afterward. “It was perceived as more efficient to sell them in their entirety to protect the bank’s interests.”
The bank plans to market and sell them to satisfy the debt, he said.
In a January filing in the district court, Sunflower was asking for judgment on loans and guarantees, including late charges and interest, exceeding $1.6 million.
Rooks County economic development director Roger Hrabe was among those who attended the auction.
“My interest is just in seeing that they get into local hands, of people who are going to do something with them,” Hrabe said.
After the auction, he approached Kevin Krebaum, special assets officer at Sunflower Bank, and offered to be of help.
“He gave me his card, so I’ll reach out to him,” Krebaum said of Hrabe. “We’ll be marketing them as soon as we have the deed to the properties.”
The Plainville properties are mostly buildings along Mill Street, the town’s main retail and commercial street.
The seven are: 108 N. Main, 211 1/2 Mill, 205 N. Main, 317 W. Mill, 311 S. Washington, 211 W. Mill, and 221 W. Mill.