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Online bidding process aims to help county save money

June 02, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - In an effort to save money, Washington County will stop soliciting project bids by mail next year.

Instead, the county will advertise new projects on the Internet, using its Web site and a state-run procurement Web site.

The change, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2009, will save the county more than $1,800 per year, Purchasing Agent Karen R. Luther said last month.

Purchasing and engineering department bids will be affected by the change.

"We've been headed in this direction for a while now. Mail is costly," Luther said.

The county has advertised project bids on its Web site for a couple of years, Luther said.

Luther said the county maintains a list of companies and sends bid notices for new projects to relevant vendors from that list.

She said the amount of mailings can vary, from two or three on specialized projects to more than 100 for large construction projects.

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The county used to mail the entire bid package to each vendor, but a few years ago started mailing only a notice that refers potential bidders to the county's Web site to download the full package of bid documents.

The county also has cut the size of its newspaper ads in recent years, again referring bidders to the Web site for more information.

Luther said the latest change will save the county money on postage for the bid notices and addenda, as well as extra copies of bids that are printed in advance.

The county spends $420 every year mailing bids, Luther wrote in an e-mail. Paper and envelopes cost another $80. Clerical time required for data entry, photocopying and envelope stuffing account for another $1,360, Luther wrote.

She said she does not expect the change to be a huge problem for companies that bid on county projects.

"Only two or three vendors have called us saying they don't have Internet access," said Luther, who noted that the library and other places offer free Web access for companies that don't have Internet capabilities.

The changes will not have a big effect on Callas Contractors Inc., a local construction firm that bids on several county projects every year, said Cheryl Pryor, estimates administrative assistant for Callas.

Pryor said the company relies on the county and state Web sites, as well as mailed notices to keep up with new bids in Washington County.

"We'll have to check the Web site a little bit more, but that's about it," Pryor said.

To see a list of new projects up for bid on the county's Web site, go to www.washco-md.net, "Online Services" and "Bid Invitations."

To view projects on "eMaryland Marketplace," the state procurement Web site, go to https://ebidmarketplace.com.

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