Bartlett touts business record, is challenged on federal policy Contract bundling worries Taneytown businesswoman

August 09, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett came to Taneytown Friday to tout his record as a supporter of small businesses.

But for one local businesswoman, the proof could be in whether the Western Maryland congressman can help solve a problem created by a change in federal purchasing practices.

Bartlett, a three-term Republican running for re-election in the 6th District, spoke to a Taneytown business breakfast group. The group, which does not have a formal name, meets monthly to discuss issues relevant to local businesses.

The practice of contract bundling "is going to hurt many small businesses," said Arlene T. Welty, owner of Quality Utility Construction Inc. of Taneytown, which installs underground utility lines.

Bundling, tying several contracts together in a single large bid, has become a common practice in federal contracts during the last three years, as federal agencies face tighter budgets.

Utilities served by Welty's business have begun a similar practice, she said, tying contracts into packages so large that small contractors can't compete for them. "If it's a $250,000 contract and you have a cash flow of $50,000, you can't compete," Welty said.

Welty said she started her business without government aid but wants Bartlett's help in assuring that small businesses are able to compete for contracts.

Bartlett will meet with Welty soon.

Contract bundling may have hurt minority business owners competing for federal contracts. The General Services Administration reported that minority contractors in Washington and 14 nearby counties received $2.88 billion in federal contracts in fiscal 1997, down from $3.16 billion in 1995, a peak year.

Federal officials defend contract bundling as efficient and cost-effective.

"Bundling definitely results in cost savings," Darleen A. Druyun, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, told the House National Security Committee at a hearing in June on Air Force base realignments and closings.

At the breakfast Friday, Bartlett listed as accomplishments of the 105th Congress renewal of Small Business Administration loan guarantees and assistance programs, and passage of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

A spokeswoman said Bartlett voted for both measures.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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