Balto. Co. resolves to buy only U.S. metal

Council approves measure to keep steel worker jobs

April 20, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore County Council made sure last night that the county continues to buy only American-made steel and other metals, unanimously approving a resolution sponsored by Dundalk Democrat John Olszewski Sr.

Olszewski, whose council district is home to many Bethlehem Steel Corp. workers, said the measure is intended to ensure that as many metalwork jobs as possible remain in the United States.

"If you take away livelihoods and you start importing steel and other metal products, whose jobs are you taking away? I think the answer's obvious," he said. "If we're in a position where we can promote buying U.S. products, I think we should."

His resolution was in response to changes the county Planning Board made in January to two purchasing manuals that are updated every four years. Changes to the Manual of Standards Details and the Manual of Standards Specifications would have allowed the county to purchase foreign-made metal products, said Tim Dugan, a spokesman for the planning office.

Dugan said the Planning Board amended the manuals after the sales manager for Capitol Foundry of Virginia, a Virginia Beach firm that sells foreign-made manhole covers, said the county ban on imports is unfair and costly.

Capitol Foundry officials declined to comment yesterday. But David W. Poole, Capitol's sales manager, said in a January letter to county officials that a single company has been supplying iron-made manhole covers to the county for decades and that opening up the market would save the county money. "Monopolies only choke the savings the supplier and citizens of Baltimore County can have," he wrote.

Joseph M. Lazzati, branch manager of East Jordan Iron Works, Capitol's Michigan-based competitor, said his company has been supplying between $17,000 and $25,000 in manhole covers and other U.S.-made products to Baltimore County at a competitive price for 30 years.

He said the manhole covers might be slightly more expensive than the products made in India for Capitol, but are of higher quality. "They're asking the county to sacrifice quality for a minimal savings," Lazzati said.

He said that East Jordan employs 900 workers and the U.S. foundries employ between 4,000 and 5,000.

Charles R. "Bob" Olsen, Baltimore County public works director, said that Olszewski's measure is likely to affect only a small number of purchases because most county contracts use state and federal money. State and federal rules have similar buy-American policies, and the county must follow those guidelines when using state and federal money, he said.

County planning officials lodged no objection to the resolution.

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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