Council agrees to hire consultant on capital project contracts

August 12, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

The Columbia Council agreed last night to spend up to $25,000 to hire a consultant to evaluate the Columbia Association's procedures in awarding contracts for capital projects.

The nonprofit association is not subject to competitive bidding laws that apply to government but has its own internal policies for soliciting bids and hiring contractors for construction projects.

Councilwoman Norma Rose, who made the proposal last night, said in an interview Wednesday that it's "not all that clear" how contracts for design or construction work are awarded and that "there is a sense that procedures need revision."

The eight council members present voted unanimously for the study. The 10-member council serves as the board of directors for the association, which manages Columbia's recreational facilities, community programs and open space areas. The association's capital budget is $5.8 million this year and was $9.4 million last year.

In the interview, Ms. Rose declined to comment on whether any specific capital projects prompted the recommendation. She has been critical of the management of a recently completed $1.4 million project to repair a deteriorating Wilde Lake dam and remove accumulated lake sediment. The council also discussed taking a more active role as an advocate for Columbia residents on issues before county government, such as affordable housing, public safety, traffic and transportation.

Ms. Rose recommended that the council assess the concerns and needs of Columbia residents and develop ideas for solutions. Then, council members should advocate those positions before the Howard County Council and other county boards.

Councilman Michael Rethman supported the idea. "I've raised the issue before, as have others, of using the [Columbia] Council a bully pulpit," he said.

Several council members said the group should be wary of taking positions that might benefit one Columbia village while hurting another, such as advocating a change in traffic patterns. Rethman said he believes the council -- which includes a representative from each village -- could take stands in the best interests of the entire community, even if one village might object.

Ms. Rose suggested the council become vocal in supporting the Longfellow Elementary School PTA, which has raised money to build a new playground but has encountered some snags with the county Department of Education.

The council also heard reports on summer swimming pool and camp programs. Pools attracted 2,570 memberships, compared to 2,418 last year. Camps drew 2,207 youths to fill 3,602 slots -- a slight improvement over last year -- and offered expanded programs for low-income families and children with special needs.

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