Barr: Washington County had 'no choice' but to close Funkstown bridge for repairs

$1.24 million contract awarded to Hagerstown company

$1.24 million contract awarded to Hagerstown company

July 09, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

FUNKSTOWN -- The Washington County Commissioners' most vocal opponent of a planned bridge closure in Funkstown said he had "no choice" but to support the closure Tuesday when he became the deciding vote on the construction bid for the project.

Commissioners President John F. Barr stopped short of casting a formal vote on the project, but his abstention allowed the measure to pass, 2-1.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval also abstained from the vote because his wife works for the winning bidder.

Commissioners Kristin B. Aleshire and William J. Wivell voted to accept the bid.

Commissioners Vice President Terry L. Baker voted against the measure.

By approving the bid, the county commissioners ensured that, pending Maryland State Highway approval, the bridge on East Oak Ridge Drive will be closed from August to the end of the year.

"It's a real tough situation. It definitely has a tremendous impact," Barr said, noting that the closure likely will hurt several merchants in the area. "But in good judgment, on my part, I have no choice but that we move forward."


County engineers and a private consultant company have said the bridge, which was built in 1833, is in poor condition and must be rehabilitated.

Before Tuesday's vote, bridge engineer Scott Hobbs read from a federally funded consultant's opinion on the bridge's condition that said the bridge's superstructure is "deficient." The report suggests "fixing the bridge immediately."

Merchants along East Oak Ridge Drive have asked the county to install a temporary bridge during the closure, but county officials and others have said the time needed to do so would delay the project until next year.

Instead, the commissioners voted earlier this year to compress the project's construction schedule from six months to five months.

Barr was the only commissioner to vote against that measure, saying it did not do enough to help affected businesses.

He mentioned that vote Tuesday while talking through his decision to let the bid pass. As president, Barr is always the last commissioner to vote on any matter.

"I was the stand-alone vote before," Barr said. "But the alternatives here aren't good. The financial and logistics of a temporary bridge and the impact that would create...I don't guess we have much of a choice."

Although he said he was not willing to vote against the bid, Barr decided not to go on the record as having voted for the measure.

Barr's abstention was allowed under Robert's Rules of Order, which note that a chairman is "entitled" to vote but not required to do so.

"You can abstain for any reason," said Dick Helman, a former Annapolis mayor who is considered an expert on Robert's Rules of Order.

The contract to repair the bridge was awarded to the low bidder, Building Systems Inc., the only Hagerstown company to bid on the project.

The company bid $1.24 million for the project, about $20,000 less than the county's estimate of $1.26 million.

The other four bids ranged from $1.38 million to $1.95 million.

The contract includes incentives for the contractor if the project is finished early and disincentives if it goes over schedule.

For every day the bridge is open prior to the contract's end date of Dec. 31, the contractor will earn $1,500 for up to 30 days.

If the project goes past Dec. 31, the contractor will be assessed a daily penalty of $1,500 plus $500 in liquidated damages per day.

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