>   An unusual set of bids on a large pipe project led Deschutes Valley Water District to try an unconventional arrangement when bids were awarded last week.
   Five companies submitted bids to provide 12,000 lineal feet of 24-inch PVC pipe for the water district's three-year, 12.75-mile project to replace older mainlines with the larger pipe.
   Edson Pugh, manager of DVWD, noted that there was a tie between the two lowest companies, H.D. Fowler Co., and United Pipe and Supply Co., which bid $448,920, and a third company, Consolidated Supply Co., bid $448,980 -- just $60 more.
   "Apparently the three low bidders got their price from the same factory and have very similar mark-ups," he explained. "There are very few factories that make the large 24-inch PVC pipe."
   Since neither DVWD, nor the bidders present at the bid opening had ever experienced a tie on a waterworks bid, the board came up with a novel solution.
   "After consulting with our legal counsel (Dave Glenn), our board split the bid and awarded it to both H.D. Fowler and United Pipe," Pugh said.
   If the two bidders hadn't agreed, DVWD would have either had to rebid the project, or draw lots.
   The price of PVC pipe, which can be volatile, he said, depends on seasonal factors and the price of petroleum.
   "We bid out large enough portions to get a good price, but not too much at a time because of storage issues and if the pipe is in the sun too long, it will deteriorate," he noted.
   Last week's bid was the fourth the district has had for the project. The price dropped from $49.82 per foot in February of 2006, to $42.32 in August of 2006, to a low of $32.76 in August of 2007.
   The current bid is up somewhat from August, but down substantially from 2006, at $37.41 per foot. The highest bid for the project, $525,810, would have cost more than $6 more per foot.
   The final 6 1/2 miles of the project are expected to take another year and a half to complete, Pugh said.
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