Bid for playground gear is restored after denial

October 02, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County Director of Administration Larry Klimovitz has overruled procurement officials and ordered that a quarter-million-dollar contract to install playground equipment at

17 sites be awarded to the West Virginia company that submitted the low bid.

Mr. Klimovitz directed the county Department of Procurement to award the project to Taylor Associates instead of West Recreation Inc., the second-lowest bidder.

He said county officials had unfairly labeled Taylor's bid documentation flawed and its overall bid "unresponsive."

"I think they erred in making the award to West and they should go ahead and order the equipment from Taylor," he said.

Mr. Klimovitz said the bidding delay, together with an aborted round of bidding on the contract last spring, has delayed completion of the playgrounds until Christmas or later.

Taylor Associates, a 26-year-old company with two offices in Maryland, had bid $236,980 to provide playground equipment for tTC nine school sites and eight county parks. Its bid was $25,000 lower than that of West Recreation, the only other bidder.

In July, the county chose to award the contract to West, of Ellicott City, which bid $261,278. In finding the lower bid "nonresponsive," county officials said they believed Taylor's bid did not meet the county's specifications, including details on warranties and quality of hardware.

Taylor appealed to Mr. Klimovitz, who held an administrative hearing Sept. 22. He filed his opinion Wednesday.

County officials had disqualified the Taylor bid on two counts, Mr. Klimovitz said Thursday. One was that Taylor proposed installing either of two lines of equipment by the same manufacturer at the same price. The choice would be the county's.

County officials considered the bid "unresponsive" because, they said, it was actually two bids, not one.

Mr. Klimovitz disagreed. "They didn't make two bids," he said. "They simply offered a choice of lines for the same price."

He said county officials also feared that Taylor's proposed hardware was not as tamper-resistant as they had required in the specifications. Mr. Klimovitz disagreed on that count as well.

"Procurement thought their equipment was not vandal-resistant, and I thought it was. In my mind, nothing is vandal-proof," he said.

"Obviously I don't like to see one of our decisions overturned, but we'll go ahead and award the bid as directed," said John O'Neill, director of the procurement agency.

"My clients are very happy with the decision, and they're excited about the opportunity to do business with Harford County government," said attorney Bruce C. Bereano, who represented

Taylor in the appeal.

Mr. O'Neill said a purchase order can be issued as soon as the Board of Estimates, which must approve all county contracts, gives its OK. The board's next meeting is Thursday.

"My concern now, like that of the parents, is the amount of time this has taken," said Mr. O'Neill. "We should have had this done in June."

Parents of some elementary school children have complained that their schools were opening in September for another year without playgrounds.

About $250,000 was allocated in the 1993-1994 budget for the playground projects, but when the fiscal year ended in June, equipment had not been ordered.

"It became a mammoth project," said Robert Lee, management assistant for the parks department.

Specifications were drafted site by site, with parks officials drawing up those for their eight sites and the Board of Education adding the nine schools to the contract. The Procurement Department fine-tuned the specifications, advertised the project and opened the bids.

Taylor's bid in July marked the second time the company had been low bidder on the project. In April, in the first round of bids on the playground equipment, Taylor bid $222,352, and West bid $262,370.

The county chose West then, too. That drew complaints from Taylor that the county had not been specific enough in writing its requirements.

Mr. O'Neill then threw out the bids and redrew the specifications.

When Taylor's low bid was rejected in July, the company appealed to Mr. Klimovitz.

Schools that are to get playground equipment under the contract are Abingdon, Deerfield, Edgewood, Forest Hill, Fountain Green, Hall's Cross Roads, Meadowvale, Norrisville and North Harford elementaries.

The park sites are Edgewater Village and Flying Point in Edgewood, Francis Silver in Darlington, Fox Meadows in Jarrettsville, Heavenly Waters in Bel Air, Mariner Point and Robert Copenhaver in Joppatowne, and William Longley in Abingdon.

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