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Bus center, grant funding in limbo

Commissioners clash on contract award as deadline approaches

June 01, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding could be in jeopardy due to the Washington County Commissioners' failure Tuesday to award a construction contract for a new bus transfer center, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

The commissioners voted 2-2 on the contract award, with Commissioners President John F. Barr abstaining.

The roughly $1.5 million project includes a new County Commuter transfer station with off-street bus parking, a driver breakroom and a 74-space permit-only parking lot at the corner of North Prospect and West Franklin streets.

The project has been approved for $875,225 in federal stimulus funding as well as $248,500 from the Neighborhood Conservation Initiative program.

To keep the Neighborhood Conservation Initiative grant, the county must award the construction contract by June 30, Murray said. Even awarding the contract Tuesday would have been cutting that deadline close, because the county must allow a 17-day window for objections to the award and must get the award approved by the Maryland Transit Administration, he said.

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Commissioners Terry Baker and William J. Wivell voted against the contract award.

The outcome of the motion was not immediately apparent, as Barr did not vote out loud and made a comment to County Clerk Vicki Lumm that was not audible to the rest of the room.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he thought Barr had voted yes, but Murray announced later in the meeting that Barr had abstained.

Barr said he had told Lumm he was abstaining.

Asked after the meeting why he abstained, Barr said he found out his company, Ellsworth Electric, was to be the subcontractor under the recommended contract, and he stepped out of the meeting to consult with county attorneys.

The motion supported by commissioners James F. Kercheval and Aleshire was to award a $1,010,750 contract to Callas Contractors Inc. of Hagerstown.

Another bidder, Roy C. Kline Contractors of Smithsburg, Md., submitted a lower bid of $1,006,779, but was deemed unresponsive by the Maryland Transit Administration, County Purchasing Agent Karen R. Luther said. Kline's original submission did not meet the Minority Business Enterprise requirements to receive federal funding and instead of submitting a waiver request, the company resubmitted its bid with subcontractors that were not on the original submission, Luther said.

Other than that issue, Kline would have been eligible for the contract, she said.

Aleshire said for a company to lose a contract over that issue "just does not seem logical," but he voted for the recommended contract award to avoid holding up the project.

Wivell said he voted against the contract award for three reasons. First, he did not support the county's purchase of the land where the transfer center is to be built. Second, he had concerns about the dismissal of the low bid. Third, Wivell said he did not support the parking lot portion of the project, which he said was not the best use of that land. He said he would like to see that part of the property put back on the county's tax rolls, possibly to be developed privately as an office building with an underground parking garage.

Baker said he voted against the contract award because he, too, had opposed the purchase of the land for the project and because, according to an agenda report form, the county would be contributing $421,025 to the project. Baker said he had been led to believe previously that the land purchase would be the only county contribution required.

In March 2008, the commissioners voted 3-2 to buy the lots where the transfer station will be built for $1.4 million. At that time, they also bought the PNC Bank building on West Washington Street for $3 million and a vacant building on Franklin Street for $210,000.

Other bidders



The other bidders for the construction project were:

Roy C. Kline Contractors, Smithsburg, $1,006,779

Building Systems Inc., Hagerstown, $1,059,000

Manekin Construction LLC, Columbia, Md., $1,083,406

W. Harley Miller Contractors Inc., Martinsburg, W.Va., $1,140,000

Kinsley Construction, Hagerstown, $1,170,520

C. William Hetzer Inc., Hagerstown, $1,243,910

Myers Building Systems Inc., Clear Spring, $1,248,505

How they voted:



The commissioners voted 2-2 with one abstention on a motion to award the transfer center contract.

John F. Barr, abstained

Terry Baker, no

Kristin B. Aleshire, yes

James F. Kercheval, yes

William J. Wivell, no

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