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Washington County to send apologetic letters after contract-renewal mixup

All proposals for landfill-monitoring services contract had to be rejected

July 13, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham, right, speaks as fellow commissioner John F. Barr listens in this Herald-Mail file photo. Callaham asked that the county purchasing department send apologetic letters to 12 companies after a contract-renewal mixup left the officials no choice but to reject all the proposals for a landfill-monitoring services contract.
Herald-Mail file photo

The Washington County Purchasing Department will be sending apologetic letters to 12 companies after a contract-renewal mixup left the officials no choice but to reject all the proposals for a landfill-monitoring services contract.

"I feel really bad on behalf of these folks who have spent money (preparing proposals), and now we're going to say, 'Oops, we're really sorry, but you wasted your money,'" County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said Tuesday when Purchasing Agent Karen R. Luther told the commissioners of the mistake.

The bids had to be rejected because the county missed the deadline to notify the current contractor, Maryland Environmental Service, that it did not want to automatically renew the contract, Luther said. That deadline was 60 days before the contract's June 30 expiration, not 60 days notice at any time, as was first believed, she said.

Clifford J. Engle, deputy director of environmental management, said his Solid Waste Department was responsible for the oversight.

The contract involves monitoring water and gas at the county's landfills. MES, an independent state agency, has held the contract since 1998, Luther said.

The county recently decided to see if it could get better pricing in the private sector and issued the request for proposals, she said.

MES was not among the 12 companies that submitted proposals, she said.

The commissioners voted unanimously to reject those proposals in light of the county's commitment to another year with MES.

In January, the county will again request proposals for the contract, leaving enough time to evaluate them and notify MES before the deadline if the commissioners choose to contract a different company, Luther said.

Legally, the county reserves the right to reject any or all proposals for contracts, but in practice, the county rarely rejects them all, Luther said.

The action Tuesday was only the third time she could remember it happening in almost 30 years.

Callaham said she understood that "these things happen," but asked that the purchasing department send apologetic letters to the rejected companies in recognition that preparing a proposal can cost $100 or more.

Luther said she had already talked to some of the bidders and planned to send letters to all of them.

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