Bill would let county put up 'for sale' signs

March 06, 1998


Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - The Washington County Commissioners would be able to sell and purchase property without advertising for bids in advance under legislation being considered by the Maryland General Assembly.

The legislation, which supporters said is intended to close a potentially costly loophole in existing law, would allow the county to make property transactions the way homeowners and businesses do.

"All we want to do is put up a 'for sale' sign like a real estate agent does," said County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop after a hearing on the legislation Thursday before the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.


He said the need for the bill became apparent several years ago when the county sold several pieces of land. It negotiated informal agreements with interested sellers and then had to advertise for formal bids.

In one case, the person who reached an informal agreement withdrew the original offer and tried to submit lower bids, Shoop said. The attempt was ultimately unsuccessful when someone else submitted a higher bid.

The current law gives prospective buyers the chance to manipulate the system to purchase county land at discount prices, Shoop said.

In its analysis of the bill, the state Department of Legislative Services wrote that the legislation could negatively affect businesses that are not made aware of possible real estate deals through advertisements.

The agency also said that the county could end up facing increased costs due to a lack of competition. But because the county makes very few land transactions each year, any effect from the bill would be minimal, the analysis said.

Shoop said even if the legislation were approved, the county would have to notify the public of land sales and purchases through a newspaper advertisement. Anyone opposing the transaction could appeal to the County Commissioners with another offer.

The committee also heard testimony on several other county bills, including:

- Legislation that would allow the county to combine its purchasing efforts with other counties and governments as a means of buying cars and other county equipment at lower costs.

- A proposed raise for the members of the county Board of Elections Supervisors from $2,300 to $2,600 for the president and $2,000 to $2,300 for other members.

- Legislation that would formally eliminate the position of county auditor. The county has its financial audits performed by private firms, so there is no need for the auditor position in the present law, officials said.

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