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For sale — schools peddle surplus online

SHARE For sale — schools peddle surplus online

Anybody want to buy a beat-up wrestling mat?

How about a record player?

Legless tables?

Believe it or not, this stuff sells.

And for schools, using the Information Superhighway as the middleman makes selling surplus goods a snap.

Instead of rattling the items off at live auction, school districts are displaying used wares at www.esurplusauction.com. Surplus, in this case, means schools have used and are done re-using the goods. The items come as-is, no warranty.

"We use these things until they are dead and then some," Jordan District spokeswoman Melinda Colton said of surplus items. Still, the district made $15,000 at its last live surplus auction and expects to pull in even more online.

Jordan is among 13 educational or government agencies in Utah using the Orem-based Web site as a bidding clearinghouse for used goods. The agencies include the state of Utah, Weber State and Brigham Young universities, American Fork city and nine school districts. States including Colorado, Texas and California also are posting goods.

The site allows you to select the state in which you live, plus the agency you want to buy from. Or, you can do a general view.

Browse through the categories to find playground equipment — remember those old steel-springed animals you used to rock on as a kid? — offered by the Alpine School District. A weight-training machine is up for sale by the state of Utah. So is a lung analyzer.

You'll find truck shells. Tractors. Fax machines. A brand-new range. An industrial size refrigerator. Old textbooks. And pianos, starting at $100.

"By the time it gets in (to surplus), most of it is pretty hammered," Weber School District purchasing agent Merlene Wixon said. "But we still try to see what we can get. Somebody out there might want something."

Folks with the highest bid get the goods, just like in any live auction or on the popular auction Internet site eBay.

The difference is, the government agencies require you to go to their digs to pick up the goods. Not only does that save shipping costs, but buyers sometimes find something else that tickles their fancy, said Salt Lake City School District buyer Gary Briggs, who also oversees the district's surplus auctions.

There are other benefits for schools. Several school districts have conducted live auctions to get rid of their old stuff in the past. But, as Briggs found, some auctioneers would receive 75 percent of the take. "We were left with very little other than a mess to clean up when they were finished with it," he said.

But esurplusauction.com takes a fraction of that in commission, Briggs said. Online auctions also help keep a clean audit trail of all goods and clear warehouses.

"It saves us a lot of hassle and time," he said.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com