Delaware firm low bidder on prison annex

January 27, 1992|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

EASTON -- A Delaware firm has underbid six Maryland construction outfits, winning tentative approval to build a 420-bed, minimum-security prison annex on the grounds of the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset County.

Should the state Board of Public Works approve the $6.3 million contract submitted by W. B. Venables & Sons of Laurel, Del., the facility would be scheduled to be opened in January 1993, or 16 weeks ahead of original construction plans.

The prison is one of the building projects that Gov. William Donald Schaefer placed on a fast track as part of his "Maryland Goes to Work" plan, aimed at boosting the state's sagging economy by spending money ahead of schedule.

State law requires that contracts be awarded to the lowest qualifying bidder. While this one will go to an out-of-state firm, state and Venables officials say Maryland workers and building suppliers will get the lion's share of the money set aside for the project.

Three-quarters of the construction work will be handled by Maryland-based subcontractors and 80 percent of the work force will be Maryland residents, Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said yesterday.

Venables also is expected to purchase the "bulk" of its building material from Maryland suppliers, Mr. Sipes said.

Bruce Venables, an officer of the firm, said the arrangement is routine. "This is the way we do all our Maryland work," he said. "It's just exactly the way we handle all Maryland jobs."

During peak construction activity, as many as 100 workers could be on the work site outside Westover, he said.

Mr. Sipes said the greatest long-term benefits should go to Somerset County, which has one of the state's highest unemployment rates.

The new facility will create 150 prison jobs and another 100 spinoff positions created by the demand for services and supplies from the surrounding community.

ECI, which currently houses 2,453 inmates, has a work force of 751.

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