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The question of whether to instate a preference for local businesses when awarding county contracts has come up on several occasions since the latest Calvert County Board of County Commissioners took office more than a year ago, and this week it came up again when reviewing and approving a contract on Tuesday.

Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) was the lone commissioner who opposed the 4-1 vote to award a contract to low bidder United Site Services of Maryland Inc., of Waldorf, to provide, deliver and service portable toilets at various county sites. Slaughenhoupt said Outback Porta-Jon Inc. of Huntingtown, which has provided contracted services to the county in the past, bid an estimated monthly cost of $1,679.20 per month for these services to the county, just $34.20 more than United’s estimated bid of $1,645 per month.

“It seems to me this is a case where it would be in the best interest of the county to have a local vendor readily available,” Slaughenhoupt said of the type of work involved.

Slaughenhoupt has recommended denial of lowest bidders in the past in favor of local businesses whose costs do not greatly differ from the lowest bid. The commissioners also have suggested on a number of occasions the possibility of holding work sessions to create a local bidder preference policy.

“This often seems like Groundhog Day,” he said. “We’ve been here before.”

However, Commissioners Pat Nutter (R) and Susan Shaw (R) said that while they also want to see local businesses succeed, they did not feel comfortable making an exception to the county’s bidding policy at that time.

“The problem I’m having now is that we have a set procedure in place,” Nutter said, adding, “Maybe we need to further study this process. ... I certainly want the bids to go locally, that’s for sure.”

“Doing it on an individual basis without having really discussed and debated and made a policy ... is doing it piecemeal and not with any kind of well-thought-out policy and process,” Shaw said.

Eventually bidders from other areas might stop bidding on Calvert County contracts, she continued, and “with less competition, will the bids that come in be higher, therefore costing the county taxpayers more money?”

Shaw said the board referred the local bidder preference issue to the Economic Development Commission a couple of years ago. “Ultimately, it would not be beneficial to the taxpayer, which is who we’re here to represent,” she cited as the outcome of those discussions.

In other business, the commissioners:

Ÿ Proclaimed May “Historic Preservation Month”;

Ÿ Proclaimed the week of May 9-16 “Respect for Law Week”;

Ÿ Unanimously awarded a contract to Glover’s Septic Services Inc. of Huntingtown to pump and haul sewage and gray water from trailers and vehicles at Breezy Point Beach and Campground, at a unit price of $5 per campsite;

Ÿ Unanimously approved an amendment to a right of entry agreement with the state for Chesapeake Boulevard construction work involving state property at 55 Armory Road. The amendment extends the expiration date of the agreement from Sept. 30, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2015;

Ÿ Unanimously ratified and approved ordinances for previously approved zoning text amendments concerning veterinary clinics, buffer regulations and motor vehicle storage and accessory shops;

Ÿ Heard public comment from Wilson L. Parran Sr. of Prince Frederick regarding his concerns for 50 trees that have been planted along Dares Beach Road without a permit and for the Calvert Soccer Association’s intentions to build a soccer field on Arthur King Road, which he feels may lead to increased traffic the road will be unable to support;

Ÿ Heard public comment from the Calvert Citizens Green Team regarding the success of the fourth annual Green Expo held last weekend at Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center.

mrussell@somdnews.com