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Plane on auction block in FLDS town

Arizona is trying to pay off debts of the school district

Arizona hopes to net up to $170,000 for a plane that belonged to the Colorado City School District.
Arizona hopes to net up to $170,000 for a plane that belonged to the Colorado City School District.
George Cunningham, Auctionaz.com

A small airplane belonging to the troubled school district in the polygamous border town of Colorado City, Ariz., is scheduled to be auctioned off to the highest bidder Saturday.

It's the first of what could be several auctions of property belonging to the Colorado City Unified School District, seized by the state of Arizona.

"We're trying to bring the district back into the black," said Andrea Esquer, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office. "The purpose is to pay off debt."

The Cessna P210 has been sitting in a hangar since Arizona authorities took control of the school district last year. Colorado City school officials claimed they used the plane to attend meetings because of the large geographic area of Mohave County, Ariz.

The airplane could fetch as much as $170,000 at Saturday's auction, said George Cunningham, the auctioneer and president of Cunningham & Associates. He told the Deseret Morning News as many as 20 people have expressed interest in purchasing the district's plane, which he advertised on the Web site www.auctionaz.com.

"The people who have been interested haven't been too much into the history of Colorado City," he said. "Not as much as they are questioning the history and condition of the plane."

Cunningham said the airplane has been cared for but has a lot of hours on it. Simon Consulting, the appointed receiver to oversee the Colorado City Unified School district, said it was planning at least one more auction of property.

"That would be on the vehicles and furniture and woodworking machinery and all the other stuff," Cunningham said. He was asked to go to Colorado City last year to see what else could be auctioned off. "The woodworking equipment's really good stuff."

In 2005, the Arizona Board of Education appointed a receiver to take financial and administrative control of the district after teachers went months without pay and allegations of financial mismanagement surfaced. Authorities raided district offices, seizing computers, records and files. The Colorado City Unified School District's superintendent and financial director resigned last year.

Most residents of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, are members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. In 2000, Warren Jeffs — who is now the leader of the polygamous group — ordered members to remove their children from public schools. As a result, nearly two-thirds of the district's students left. Jeffs is now facing charges related to arranging child bride marriages and is a fugitive. He is on the FBI's Most Wanted List.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com