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City Council resurrects local bid favoritism debate

April 30, 2001

City Council resurrects local bid favoritism debate



By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Whether the City of Hagerstown should have a bid process that favors local businesses was debated again Tuesday as a Baltimore firm was awarded a contract to do the city's audit.

Wooden & Benson was awarded the contract by a 3-2 City Council vote.

After the voting, Peter D. Alexander, a principal with Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell, told the council the firm might say no to future requests for donations to events such as the Western Maryland Blues Fest so the firm can afford to offer a lower bid next time.

Wooden & Benson bid $49,300 for audits for fiscal years 2001 and 2002, compared to a $55,500 bid by Albright Crumbacker, according to a memo from the Audit Selection Committee. The Baltimore firm also was ranked first, according to fees and technical ratings.

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On Thursday, Managing Partner Doug Moul said he was disappointed the council didn't take into account the firm's standing as a good corporate citizen.

Over the years, the firm has contributed to city events, local charities and renovated a downtown building next to City Hall, Moul said. The firm, which has outgrown its offices, needs to build a new office building and may go outside city limits to avoid $20,000 in city property taxes, he said.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure wanted Albright Crumbacker to be rewarded for being a good corporate steward. He said the council exercised its discretion in the past to award a contract to someone other than the low bidder - at least once to an out-of-town firm over a local firm.

In this instance, Councilman Lewis Metzner said the cost difference was too much to ignore.

Metzner added that if the city adopts a local preference policy, out-of-town businesses could stop bidding and prices could go up.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said a vehicle contract once was awarded to a Hagerstown dealership, despite a bid $200 lower from a Greencastle, Pa., dealership.

The owner of the Greencastle dealership told the mayor he would never again bid on a city contract and hoped the prices skyrocketed, Bruchey said.

Council members Metzner, William Breichner and Alfred Boyer voted to give the contract to Wooden & Benson. McClure and Susan Saum-Wicklein cast votes in opposition.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the next administration may wish to discuss a local preference option, but this council had already reviewed the issue.

Zimmerman said the city's bid process has integrity, though it does result in some "awkward" or "difficult" decisions at times.

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