Photo by Abby LeForge.

Unclaimed property goes to auction


Objects get set down, forgotten and lost. Owners search high and low, their heads turn from side to side, frantically tracking down their lost objects. All lost and found items eventually end up in the University Police Department.

UPD evidence technician Zan Mendonca uses an ongoing online auction website called Property Room to sell the unclaimed property after being held for a period of three months.

“People bid like eBay, and then once they get their funds, they take a portion of it and send the check to us,” Mendonca said. “I think it is great. They have saved us a lot of money.”

Mendonca said that the check, which is received from Property Room, doesn’t normally come in a large amount, because there are not too many items of value that are turned into UPD.

“A lot of people think it goes to buy bullets and badges and stuff like that, but it actually goes back to the students, which is awesome,” Mendonca said.

Sandy Wieckowski, student financial services manager, explained that previously the money went to a HSU Short Term Student Loan Fund.

“At one time, the state told us, and the Chancellor’s Office said, you could either do it in short-term loans or in scholarships,” Wieckowski said. “We were putting some of it originally in the short-term loan fund, so we could give short-term loans, but we have enough money in short-term loans.”

According to Wieckowski, it was decided to switch the funds to HSU’s Emergency Scholarship about a year ago, with the reason being short term loans have to be paid back.

“If you truly have a financial crisis, a lot of the time, you can’t pay it back,” Wieckowski said. “Financial aid monitors that scholarship fund to help students out during desperate needs.”

Peggy Metzger, director of financial aid, works behind the scenes helping students. A small portion of lost and found money is put into a special scholarship. The money goes to students, but isn’t anything that students apply for.

“It’s basically sort of a little wiggle fund for me,” Metzger said. “Every once in a while, like for instance, say the scholarship is $500, but the interest is only in $427, but I want to give the student 500. I’ll take a little over from the fund, and shove it over so that the student gets the whole amount.”

Student Financial Services isn’t dismayed when they look at the lost and found money, because there’s not a substantial amount made from unclaimed lost and found money. It’s not like money gained from a Pell Grant.

“The caveat to claiming a lost property is that you cannot be an employee,” Mendonca said.

Mendonca always asks herself how this would look from a different perspective. How would it look if an employee dipped their hands in lost and found?

“They might get upset,” Mendonca said, “because they’re not legally able to claim it. Then I can say, oh, you know all this money that is brought back goes back to the Short Term Student Loan Fund.”

The money made from lost property no longer goes to the HSU Short Term Student Loan Fund. The change is a positive one, because it means more money is going to a separate fund to help students.

“It goes back to the students,” Mendonca said. “It usually takes the winds out of people’s sails, and what can you say? It is an awesome place for it to go.”



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