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University of Md. contractor using out-of-county subcontractors

November 22, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

One of the most anticipated construction projects in downtown Hagerstown in years is using subcontractors primarily from outside Washington County.

In December 2002, Whiting-Turner Contracting of Baltimore outbid Perini Construction of Hagerstown to get the contract to renovate a downtown Hagerstown building complex for the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center.

The contractor, selected by the Maryland Board of Public Works, since has selected the subcontractors for the project.

The civil engineer on the project is Frederick Seibert and Associates of Hagerstown and the roofing subcontractor is Carson Roofing of Hagerstown.

More than 10 other subcontractors on the project - including the architect, structural engineer, masonry and drywall - are based outside of Washington County.

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Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said it is frustrating when subcontractors from outside the county are used for major projects. But, he said, local companies do contracting work outside the county.

Callas Contractors Inc. in Hagerstown also attempted to get the general contractor job for the university project.

Asked about the contractor not using more local subcontractors, Callas Contractors Chairman Michael Callas said, "That is their prerogative ... but it does not help local businesses."

Local governments in Maryland and the state government are discouraged from giving preference to local companies when awarding contracts, Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas said. Instead, they are supposed to give the contract to the lowest qualified bidder, Douglas said.

"The Washington County Commissioners like to see a local business get the job and are happy when they do but the law requires that they obtain the best possible price for the job," he said.

Whiting-Turner officials could not be reached for comment Thursday. The project manager in the past has referred questions to system representatives.

University System Planning Director Mark Beck said Wednesday that Whiting-Turner has gone above and beyond its state requirements to try to use local companies as subcontractors. Some of the work had to go to businesses outside of the area, though, because it is so specialized, he said.

Some of the subcontractors are using employees who live in Washington County and much of the supplies are being purchased locally, Beck said.

The head of economic development for the city and county governments said they really have not tracked to see if contracting and subcontracting jobs often are going to companies outside of the area but they hope that is not the case.

"We love to see construction projects in Washington County and we would hope our local contractors would get an ample opportunity to do the subcontractor work as long as they are capable, qualified and cost-efficient," Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Director Tim Troxell said.

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