The state Board of Public Works voted yesterday to have prisoners make some tables and chairs for the House of Delegates' new offices, but a private company will still provide most of the furniture.
The board, made up of the governor, comptroller and state treasurer, decided to pay State Use Industries $283,572 for 276 hearing-room chairs, 192 stacked chairs and 48 round tables. The bulk of the contract, $1.8 million for other furniture, will be filled by Maryland Office Interiors of Baltimore.
Having State Use Industries do part of the job will save the state about $68,000, officials said. "Savings is savings," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Ehrlich and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer challenged House leaders last month to find a way to save money by using the prison workshop to outfit the building instead of a private company. Schaefer called the original furniture proposal, which included a $4,800 sofa and $2,000 desks, the "Taj Mahal."
But after reviewing the plan for potential savings, officials determined that only a small portion could be contracted to State Use Industries, which employs 1,500 Maryland prison inmates as well as other workers. The House building is set to open in January, and much of the furniture contract would have to be rebid for State Use Industries to have a bigger piece of it.
The process of rebidding would have taken too long, officials concluded. "The product would have arrived late for the opening of the new House building, and no one wanted that," said Stephen Shiloh, general manager of State Use Industries.
Though he wishes State Use furniture had been specified from the start, Shiloh said it is still an honor to help furnish the House. "Right now, we appreciate the business we are getting," he said.