Ballot item would alter buying rules

Bids would not be needed for deals below $25,000

Anne Arundel

October 31, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County voters will be asked Tuesday whether the county should have more flexibility to make purchases without publicly seeking bids, a variation of a proposal they rejected in 2002.

If residents vote "yes" for the lone ballot question in Anne Arundel, they will give county officials the power to make any purchase under $25,000 without a bid process.

County officials must solicit bids for any purchase costing more than $10,000. That standard, in place since 1982, is long outdated, said Fred Schram, the county central services manager.

"Just think about what you could buy in 1982 by today's dollar," he said. Schram added that $25,000 is the standard used in Howard, Carroll and Baltimore counties and by state purchasers.

Inflation calculators used by financial consultants show that $10,000 in 1982 is equivalent to about $19,000 today.

Schram estimated that 25 to 30 purchases cost between $10,000 and $25,000 last year, meaning they required bidding but would not if the ballot initiative passes.

He said bulk purchases of wood or chemicals, such as chlorine, are examples of buys that could fall in the price range.

County purchasers still would have to solicit three price quotes for each purchase of more than $1,000. But they would not have to use a more formal process that entails writing bid specifications, advertising and reviewing bids. That might be the difference between two days and two months of staff time for a given purchase, Schram said.

The idea to change the bid requirements arose from a review of the county charter, which officials conduct every 10 years in search of outdated policies. That review prompted a similar question on ballots two years ago, but that measure would have given the County Council discretion to waive the bidding process for any purchase.

"I wouldn't have supported the last one either," Schram said. "It was like, `Give me a blank check. I'm from the government.'"

Schram said he believes the $25,000 limit will enable the measure to pass this year.

The County Council and County Executive Janet S. Owens support the change.

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