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Dublin San Ramon Services District mechanic Shawn Quinlan uses a rope to steady a Mud Cat dredge as it is lifted by a crane and offloaded from a tractor-trailer in Pleasanton, Calif., on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. The district purchased the dredge from San Jose, who listed it for sale on eBay. (Jim Stevens/Staff)

DUBLIN -- If it has a price, there is a good chance eBay has had it.

Lunch with the world's third-richest man? Check. A decommissioned missile base? Sold. Even an entire town was had for a price on the online auction site.

So when the Dublin San Ramon Services District, a water district located in Dublin, needed help to reduce costs for its solid waste harvesting, it turned to the San Jose-based online marketplace.

And it just so happened that the site had a used 22,500-pound dredge, known as a Mud Cat Auger, and, more important, it was being sold locally.

"This was not something you could buy at your local (auto) dealer," said Dan Gallagher, operations manager for the district, which provides drinking water and sewer service to Dublin and the Dougherty Valley and sewer service to Pleasanton and parts of San Ramon.

"We have been searching for one for a couple of years," he said. "We found them in catalogs and on the Internet, but they were usually in Kansas or Wisconsin, and if we bought it, it would be more to ship."

Gallagher and his staff scored the 30-year-old machine for $23,000 from auctioncity.com, which was selling it on eBay on behalf of San Jose's environmental services department. The winning bid was roughly 10 percent of what a new dredge would cost and should save the district between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.

The Dublin San Ramon Services District is one of a few Bay Area public agencies contacted that have tapped into the online market to find unique or unusual items. The cities of Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton all said they have not used eBay to buy or sell any items.


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East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides water service to 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, rarely uses eBay, preferring to use auction houses, which come with less paperwork, said Andrea Pook, a spokeswoman for the agency.

"We tried selling and did sell surplus back hoes," Pook said. "But it was a hassle for us, and we decided not to do it again. The public auction route was easier and made the same amount of money."

East Bay MUD did win a hard-to-find book on the site, purchasing "Fresh Water Algae of North America" for $100. The book retails for $149.75 on Amazon.

For years, the Dublin San Ramon Services District had contracted out dredging its six lagoons of the biosolids produced from its wastewater plant nearby to a Texas company at a cost of $140,000 per year. To save money, the district's board authorized up to $200,000 to find a used dredge.

Steven Delight, an engineer with the district for the past 11 years, was tasked with bidding on the item. Delight had purchased personal items on the site ranging from cowboy hats to car parts.

Delight beat out one other buyer with an $11,000 bid but that fell below the minimum price set by the seller during the seven-day auction in April. He ended up securing the dredge when the seller came back with a buy-it-now price of $23,000.

"It was definitely the most unique thing I have bid on," Delight said. "(The auction) didn't feel any different from any previous one. It was kind of fun, especially when you are getting a good deal on something."

eBay, the auctioneer and San Jose did not return calls and emails seeking comment for this story.

Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/robjordan127.