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Contractor says five minutes cost county $52,000

September 11, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

A contractor said Wednesday that a decision by Washington County officials not to rebid a project for which his bid was submitted five minutes late will cost the county $52,000.

The bid of Savage Electric Co., of Woodbine, Md., to refurbish a county pump station was returned unopened because it was turned in 5 minutes past the deadline for bids.

Toby Savage, owner of Savage Electric, said his bid was $52,000 lower than the $199,500 contract awarded Tuesday by the Washington County Commissioners to Charles E. Brake Co. of Scotland, Pa.

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Brake was the sole bidder on the project, which an engineer had estimated would cost $100,000.

Savage said he called the county several times to tell them that his bid was $50,000 lower and was surprised the county decided not to rebid the project.

"It's just the way it goes, I guess," he said.

Karen Luther, the county purchasing agent, said it's the bidders' responsibility to get their proposals in on time and that it wouldn't be fair to rebid the project.

"It's not really fair to the bidders that get their bids in on time. We'd be rebidding all the time," Luther said.

Luther said she had to take Savage's claim of being $50,000 less with a grain of salt because there was no way to verify it because the bid was never opened.

Savage also disagreed with county staff members who said the project was "very difficult" because of the steep hill on which the pump station is situated.

"The hill didn't seem like a bid deal. We've done jobs a whole lot tougher," Savage said.

Luther said 30 contractors were contacted and an advertisement for the project was placed in Contract Weekly, but only one bid was submitted. Luther said she took that as a sign that contractors didn't want to bother with the project because of its difficulty.

Water and Sewer Director Gregory Murray said the project included replacing the corroded interior of the pump station and pipes with stainless steel to protect against the corrosive effects of landfill runoff.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he agreed with Luther.

He said the rules are the rules and Savage should have had his bid in on time.

"Just to rebid to rebid it, I don't think it's good business. Who's to say this time it wouldn't come in higher instead of lower?"

Commissioner R. Lee Downey said he was concerned by the cost of the project but decided to go along with the recommendation to approve the project because of the difficulty of the job and the potential that delaying the project could push it into the winter months.

Commissioner James R. Wade said the last thing the county ought to be doing is changing the bidding process around to accommodate one contractor.

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