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Funds sought for Washington Co. economic development study

December 06, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Hiring a consultant to produce an economic development strategic plan for Washington County will cost an estimated $125,000, Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission officials said Tuesday.

The EDC is proposing for Washington County to contribute up to $75,000 toward the plan, Stuart L. Mullendore, the EDC’s strategic planning task force chairman, told the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The consultant’s work would include answering the questions, “Where are we?” “What direction should we go?” and “How do we get there?” in reference to the county’s economy, according to a draft scope of work provided to the commissioners.

“To our knowledge, this has never been done here before,” Mullendore said.

EDC members agreed the plan should be prepared by the best possible consultant, and should be inclusive of all public and private development organizations, he said.

To that end, the EDC is proposing that the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, take the lead in issuing a request for proposals for a consultant, Mullendore said. CHIEF is a nonprofit development organization.

The EDC will be seeking additional funding for the project from CHIEF and several other entities, Mullendore said. The EDC is also applying for a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission toward the project, he said.

Commissioners President Terry Baker said he thought the county should not commit to funding for the project until the other partners pledge contributions. If the county approves spending up to $75,000, there would be no incentive for the other groups to contribute, he argued.

Another concern raised Tuesday was whether CHIEF’s bid process would follow the county’s guidelines.

Mullendore said he could not respond on behalf of CHIEF. The draft request for the proposal says that up to three firms submitting proposals would be chosen on the basis of qualifications, then those finalists would be evaluated based on cost.

County attorney John M. Martirano said he would feel more comfortable if the county did not commit to providing funding until the county’s legal staff had a chance to look at the proposed bid process and ensure it would not violate requirements for a project using county funds.

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