This spring, a Havre de Grace construction company lost out on a contract to build a garage for county trucks because its bid was $112 higher than a competing bid from an Anne Arundel County-based company.
But Councilman Robert S. Wagner, D-District E, doesn't want to seeany more county-based companies lose out on future construction contacts because of a small amount of money.
Wagner introduced a bill at Tuesday night's council meeting that would give Harford-based companies an edge when seeking construction contracts with the county government.
"The only motive is to help those businesses in Harford County," he said.
Among the considerations in deciding which bid to choose are the cost estimates submittedby firms seeking construction projects.
Wagner's bill stipulates that for county construction contracts worth $1 million or more, the price tag on bids from Harford firms would be reduced by 1 percent. Bids from county companies on contracts worth less than $1 million would be reduced by 1.5 percent.
Such reductions could give Harford companies the low bid "depending on how sharp the other people's pencils are," said John O'Neill, the county's director of procurement.
O'Neill said he and other county administrators are evaluating Wagner's proposed legislation to weigh the benefits and potential repercussions.
"It looks good on paper, but if other folks retaliate by enacting
similar legislation, it could make it more difficult for Harford County people to get work," O'Neill said.
"And the other counties are much bigger than we are in purchasing power."
Another reason government purchasing agents are wary of giving preferential treatment to Harford firms is because it reduces competition for contracts, O'Neill said.
He noted, "As the law is now, if everything is equal, we do give the advantage to in-county firms."
But Wagner argues that in the case of the Havre de Grace firm that was edged out by the Anne Arundel firm, the loss of tax revenues to the county was more important.
"In the case of the garage, for less than $300, the tax advantages, because employees work and live here, and the in-county sales, would have far outweighed the money saved on the contract," he said.
The contract he refers to was awarded in May to Nova Enterprises of Severna Park. The contract called for building a garage inWhiteford for the county's highway department.
Nova Enterprises bid $349,888; the bid from the Havre de Grace firm, Harce Construction, was $350,000.
Of the 149 contracts issued by the county in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1990, 30 were for construction projects, O'Neill said. Those 30 contracts were valued at about $11 million,he said.
O'Neill said he is going back over those contracts to determine if any were issued to county-based companies.
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 10 in the County Council chambers of the County Courthouse.