Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Leggett: End of bid fees would open the process and save taxpayers money

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Businesses would not have to pay to compete for county contracts and would have to register only once under a proposal County Executive Isiah Leggett announced Monday.

Leggett (D) said he expects the revisions to produce savings for taxpayers by enlarging the pool of competitors, particularly small businesses that sometimes balk at paying a $200 registration fee and may not win the bid.

The move is part of a 10-point plan to make bidding on county contracts easier — particularly those that are small and those whose owners are minorities, women or disabled — and to make information on bidding and contracts easier to find on the county’s Web site.

Leggett’s proposal also calls for eliminating a requirement that existing contracts be used, when possible, for purchases of less than $5,000.

‘‘It is our expectation that we will get better bids and cheaper bids by opening to more competition,” Leggett said.

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce asked for many of the changes and is ‘‘delighted” with the plan, said its president, Gigi Godwin, who joined Leggett in Rockville on Tuesday for the announcement.

County procurement director David Dise said he hopes to make online registration available this summer. Dise said his department is also looking at integrating the county’s portal with a similar system run by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

Last year the county awarded more than $686 million in contracts and about a third of ‘‘eligible” county contracts went to businesses with minority, female or disabled owners, Leggett said.

The county would lose about $100,000 from fees, but that will be offset by $40,000 in savings by eliminating printing and mailing costs, he said.

Council returns next week

The council returns Jan. 15 after a month-long holiday break with an agenda full of budget discussions as county leaders work to close a projected $401 million budget deficit.

The council scheduled to review Leggett’s savings plan and hiring freeze. The executive is hoping to produce $23 million in savings over the next six months. Council members submitted questions about the savings plan to Leggett last week, including many in-depth requests from Councilwoman Marilyn J. Praisner (D-Dist. 4) of Calverton. Praisner has been absent from the council since two automobile accidents sidelined her in November, and is expected to return to work next week.

Also next week, Leggett is expected to release his six-year construction budget.

The council is expected to discuss Leggett’s plans to construct a public safety headquarters in Gaithersburg.

President’s blog

Council President Michael J. Knapp this week began blogging about council issues in the first installment of his ‘‘Starting with the Socks” blog on the council’s Web site.

The blog is part of an effort to improve communications between the council and residents, said Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown.

Included in the first posting is an overview of the financial problems at the county and state levels, as well as an update on the winter break activities of some council members.

The title of the blog is taken from ‘‘On Leadership,” a book by basketball Hall of Fame member John Wooden. Knapp plans to update the blog on Mondays.

Coming next

*Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson detail their forest conservation plans in a public forum at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville.

*Leggett hosts a forum on the fiscal 2009 budget at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Upcounty Regional Services Center at 12900 Middlebrook Road in Germantown. Call 240-777-6530.