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School board awards bid for interpreters for deaf

August 18, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Before recommending that the Washington County Board of Education award a bid to provide interpreter services to a contractor in Frederick, Md., the board's chief operating officer on Tuesday apologized to Deafnet of Hagerstown for not notifying it that bids were being accepted for the work.

The board unanimously approved awarding the bid to Communication Service for the Deaf of Frederick, which submitted the lowest of three bids for the contract to provide two interpreters for two students. The contract will cost the school system about $106,000 for the school year, William Blum, the chief operating officer, said.

Blum said the board did nothing improper, having met legal requirements by publishing an announcement that it was seeking bids on the school system's Internet site and in a trade journal.

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Harold Bible, executive director of Deafnet, protested at the Aug. 3 board meeting that his organization - which he says provided interpreter services to the school system for 10 to 15 years - was not notified that the board was soliciting bids.

Bible, who also attended Tuesday's meeting, said, "I feel like I was done wrong."

He said he called the school system several times during the summer to ask about the interpretive services work but was not told about the bidding process until Aug. 3, the day the contract was scheduled to be awarded.

This is the first year the school system has taken bids for the work, Blum said.

Blum said he does not know why Deafnet was not contacted about the bids being accepted. But the system can't rebid the contract since that would not be fair to those who submitted bids and whose amounts have been made public, he said.

"It is an unfortunate set of circumstances," Blum said. "We apologize for any oversight that may have occurred."

Board Vice President Roxanne Ober voted to award the contract, but wondered aloud whether it would benefit students more to be served by district employees instead of contractors. But Blum said the company will try to provide the same service to the deaf students that system employees would provide.

Ober later said she voted for the contract out of concern that if the board hired employees instead of contracting for the work, it might not be able to start providing services when classes start on Aug. 25.

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