Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

Lately Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) has questioned whether the county could improve its budget building process. On Tuesday, the commissioner raised concerns about two project contracts and how the county puts them together.

During the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners’ regular meeting, the board unanimously approved a change order in the amount of $16,209 to increase Wheeler Goodman Masek & Associates’ contract as the architect of the new county substance abuse facility located on Stafford Road. After a series of similar contract adjustments since the contract’s original approval in 2007, the award amount has increased from $188,951 to $307,821 — a nearly $119,000 difference.

While Slaughenhoupt supported the motion before him, he said he wondered if some of the adjustments could have been anticipated in advance of awarding the original contract.

“It seems to me we went forward prematurely,” he said.

In 2008, $55,570 was added to the original contract for an addition of an adjoining piece of property that required redesign of the project, including the additional investigation of soils and topography and development of a plan for future construction of a second building adjoining the proposed new structure, according to a staff memo on the project. In 2011, after the project sat on the back burner in the hopes of state funding, $37,121 was added and an additional $7,300 was issued to modify the backup heat from electric to gas to reduce operating expenses at the facility, plus an additional $2,670 to update the fire suppression system, as it was deemed inadequate.

The most recent expense is for additional time needed by the architect as the contract must be extended from March until May due to delays.

Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) disagreed with Slaughenhoupt, saying the previous board, on which she and Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) sat, awarded the original contract before the additional piece of property became available, which “totally changed the orientation of the design.” Then the project was shelved waiting for state funding to become available, and then the price of natural gas dropped “considerably,” making it more economically feasible to heat the building with gas than the original electric design. “It’s not really anybody’s fault. It’s just one of those things.

“It’s really good when a government can be nimble enough to respond to those opportunities,” she said of the aforementioned changes. “It’s really good to try and do better and better and be more and more perfect. I don’t think there’s any blame here.”

The entire purpose of building the substance abuse facility was to consolidate those services and save the county money in the long run, she added.

“It just kind of blossomed a little bit,” Clark said.

“There are unforeseen costs sometimes no one can account for,” Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R) said.

But Slaughenhoupt also asked to table the approval of a separate contract award until he can learn more about the process finance and budget staff used to determine which business it recommends as the contract award recipient.

The contract is for interior painting and vinyl wall covering on an as-needed basis for county facilities. In fiscal 2011 the county spent $55,916 on such services using Colossal Contractors Inc. of Burtonsville. The recommendation on Tuesday, which was tabled with a 3-2 vote with Shaw and Clark in the minority, was to again award the contract to Colossal for an estimated low bid of $36,308 for the year, according to staff’s memo.

A local business, Performance Painting & Restoration of Port Republic, submitted an estimated bid of $43,958 for the same services and time frame.

Slaughenhoupt said he was worried about the details and wanted an extra week to gain more insight into the process. He requested from staff the existing project contract, the request for proposals the county sent out and details regarding the specifics of the work that needs to be done, along with what criteria is used to evaluate each item.

“I want to more clearly understand how the process was used to determine the lowest bidder,” Slaughenhoupt said after the meeting. “I have some questions that are not yet answered.”

Shaw said she didn’t see the reason for delaying the contract’s approval.

“The bid went out, it properly went out, it was advertised, people responded to it,” she said. “I’m worried about the integrity of our bidding process.”

Likewise, Clark said he has full confidence in the staff’s bid evaluation process. “The process we use, I believe in it. It’s a very competent process.”

However, Weems voted for Slaughenhoupt’s measure after learning the contract award is not a “time-sensitive matter,” and Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) agreed, “It’s not unreasonable what Commissioner Slaughenhoupt is asking for. He’s not asking to change the bid process.”