The federal government will hold public auctions throughout the month on large groups of FEMA travel trailers remaining at five staging sites in Mississippi’s Lamar, Forrest and Marion counties.

Eugene Brezany, public affairs specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Mississippi office, said the United States General Services Administration will stagger the online bidding through October, according to the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American.

“The rest of the sales will be about a week apart,” Brezany said. “Lots of a similar size will be forthcoming, but really, GSA is in charge of the timetable.”

The first sale, consisting of 483 travel trailers at the staging site in Carnes, ended Friday (Oct. 2). That sale was the largest, single group of trailers sold at one time.

Following the Carnes sale, auctions were expected to be on trailers at three sites in Lamar County: Hickory Grove, Lumberton and Purvis. Those will be followed by sales in Columbia.

Trailers, mobile homes and later, cottages, were employed as temporary housing for those whose homes were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At the peak, more than 43,000 households in Mississippi required housing assistance from FEMA.

An estimated 50,000 trailers were funneled through Mississippi’s five staging yards. As people moved into permanent housing, the sites acted as storage areas for the trailers that were returned.

The government began selling off inventory in 2006, but sales stalled in summer 2007 when health concerns were raised because of formaldehyde used in the trailers’ construction.

Sales resumed this year. Many trailers had deteriorated so badly that they were sold as scrap, but others that were serviceable were sold in smaller lots, up to 100 at a time.

The Carnes’ trailers were rated “7,” meaning, at worst, they needed minor repairs.

“Some are new, and the rest don’t need a lot of work,” said Alicia Paris, an administrative assistant with FEMA who is helping with the sales in Carnes. “There’s no major damage.”

Some estimate that as many as 35,000 trailers and mobile homes remain in the staging areas, but Brezany said the number is more likely between 25,000 and 30,000.

“We’re releasing those in order to reduce our inventory in a fiscally responsible way,” he said.

Brezany said he had no timetable for how long the auctions would continue.

“But in the long term, ultimately, we want to reduce inventory completely,” he said.

The General Services Administration trailer auctions can be found at www.gsaauctions.gov.