Wagner Retracts Bill Favoring County Firms

September 15, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

A bill that may have given an edge to Harford companies seeking county government construction contracts was withdrawn by its sponsor Tuesday after local businesses said it would do more harm than good.

The bill, proposed by Councilman Robert S. Wagner, R-District E, would have reduced the prices bid by Harford-based companies by 1 percenton bids of $1 million or more. The reduction was intended to give Harford-based businesses a competitive advantage on landing county government construction contracts.

On construction bids under $1 million, bids from Harford companies would have been reduced by 1.5 percent.

Lewis Corun, of Corun and Gatch in Churchville, told Wagner and other County Council members at a public hearing Tuesday on the bill that his company has been hurt by just such a law.

"I am a victim of Cecil County's law," said Corun.

If bids are close, Cecil County deducts 6 percent from the bid of a Cecil County-based company, giving the firm a greater chanceof landing a county contract.

Corun said his bid of $158,000 on apaving contract in Cecil County was $4,000 lower than any other bid.But when the Cecil County government deducted 6 percent from the bidof a Cecil County-based company, that company became the lowest bidder. Corun and Gatch was not awarded the contract.

Corun said that action raised other questions. The company that won the Cecil County paving contract is in Cecil County but is owned by another company outside Maryland.

"How do you determine what a local company is?" Corun asked the council.

Wagner said he was persuaded by Corun's arguments and those of the county's purchasing department to withdraw the bill.

But he said he may introduce a similar bill in about six weeks.

Wagner said the bill he is considering would give Harford-based companies a home bidding advantage only if they are competing forHarford government contracts against companies based in other counties that have bidding preference laws.

Cecil County, with its 6 percent advantage, is the only county in the region that has such a law.

Under Wagner's second proposal, a Harford-based company that competes against a Cecil County-based company on a Harford government contract will be entitled to a 6 percent competitive advantage.

"If Harford-based contractors bid 98 percent of their business in Harford County, then my first proposal would work. But because they rely so much on out-of-county contracts, my original proposal could hurt theirbusiness," Wagner said.

Debbie Henderson, of the Harford County procurement department, said Baltimore County administrators told her Baltimore County awarded $4.5 million worth of county government workcontracts to Harford-based businesses last year.

Wagner said he introduced the bill because he thought it would keep county tax dollars and jobs within the county.

He said he was concerned that Harford-based companies were losing construction contracts because of a small difference in bids.

Wagner drew up his bill after learning thata Havre de Grace construction company lost out on a contract this spring to build a garage for county trucks because its bid was $112 higher than a competing bid from an Anne Arundel County-based company.

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