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Council discusses buying police uniforms locally

September 21, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown might continue buying its police uniforms from a downtown clothing store, even though a Baltimore shop would charge less.

Hoffman Clothiers on North Potomac Street bid $18,988 for the next police clothing contract.

Howard Uniform Co. of Baltimore, the only other bidder, estimated the cost at about 8 percent less - $17,567.45, although someone has written in an incorrect lower total.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said at a meeting on Tuesday that the city almost always chooses the lowest bid for contracts. In this case, though, it has continued to buy from Hoffman Clothiers, mainly to support a downtown merchant, he said.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the one-year contract for shirts, pants, sweaters, caps, shorts and other clothes on Tuesday.

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In a memo recommending Hoffman Clothiers for the contract, Hagerstown Police Capt. John S. Moulton Jr. wrote, "First, its location makes obtaining measurements for employees more convenient. Officers are able to go for measurements on their schedule, thus expediting the ordering process as uniforms are needed. This is especially handy when we hire new employees.

"The other (and more significant) factor is Hoffman's status as a downtown business. We are aware that downtown economic development is a priority for the Mayor and Council."

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer praised the city for supporting a local business.

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean urged her colleagues to be "leery" of giving the impression that outside merchants are not welcome.

In an interview Wednesday, George Shamdasani, the vice president of Howard Uniform Co., didn't object to the city favoring a local business, but he wondered why it sought outside bids.

"That defeats the whole purpose," he said.

The police department initially acted as if it had chosen Howard Uniform, Shamdasani said.

About two weeks ago, it sent 14 or 15 officers to the shop to be measured for uniforms, a process that took about three hours, he said.

That afternoon, Shamdasani said, the city sent an e-mail telling the shop that the work was premature because the contract should have gone through the city council.

Moulton didn't return a phone message for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Jim Baker, who owns Hoffman Clothiers, agrees with and appreciates the city's approach in looking out for a local business.

"We pay taxes," he said Wednesday. "I would think that would give us a little bit of an edge."

Baker said Hoffman Clothiers has provided police uniforms to the city for more than 20 years.

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