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County Commuter transfer station contract awarded to Callas

Conflict of interest resolved when Barr withdraws firm's participation in project

June 08, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A County Commuter transfer station project is back on track after the Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to award the construction contract to Callas Contractors Inc. of Hagerstown.

That contract award was stalled by a tie vote last week, when Commissioners President John F. Barr abstained because his company, Ellsworth Electric, would have been a subcontractor.

Barr said Tuesday he was withdrawing his company's participation in the contract, removing his conflict of interest and allowing him to break the tie vote.

Barr apologized to his fellow commissioners and to county staff for the situation last week.

The delay in the contract award raised concerns that the county could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding, as the contract must be awarded by June 30 to keep a $248,500 grant from the Neighborhood Conservation Initiative program.

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The roughly $1.5 million project will be built at the corner of North Prospect and West Franklin streets, where the county purchased several lots in 2008. It would replace the current transfer point under the railroad bridge on West Washington Street.

The project would also include construction of a landscaped, permit-only parking lot that would serve county employees relocating to the former PNC bank building on West Washington Street, which the county also purchased. Eventually, that lot could also be opened to commuters who would take a shuttle to the Maryland Transit Administration commuter bus station, where parking lots are often full, officials have said.

Commissioners William J. Wivell and Terry Baker, who opposed the contract award last week, again voted against it Tuesday.

Both said they supported the bus transfer station portion of the project, but did not support the parking lot portion. As a compromise, they said they would support the project if the parking lot portion were scaled back to a less-expensive gravel lot.

Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III said that type of lot would not comply with City of Hagerstown zoning requirements.

The project has also been approved for $875,225 in federal stimulus funds. The county's share of the cost would be $421,025.

Callas Contractors' bid for the construction work was $1,010,750.

Barr said there was "some confusion" about whether he initially voted in favor of the contract award last week.

Barr said he intended all along to abstain because of his company's involvement, but "to my dismay and surprise when the vote was 2-2, I did say I was in favor of the project on a personal note."

Barr said he then left the room to seek legal council, came back in, and abstained.

"It will certainly never happen again," Barr said. "If I even thought there was a hint of impropriety or collusion, I would step out of the room."

How they voted



The Washington County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to award a construction contract for a new County Commuter transfer station.

John F. Barr -- Yes

Terry Baker -- No

Kristin B. Aleshire -- Yes

James F. Kercheval -- Yes

William J. Wivell -- No

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