The Calvert County Commissioners have continued a long-ranging discussion about the practice of offering in-county preferences for bidders on county procurement. The county does not currently have a built-in preference for in-county bidders, but has been considering either a true built-in preference or a regionally reciprocal preference.
Discussions are continuing among the commissioners on how to level the playing field for local businesses bidding on county contracts, following an initial discussion with the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners in March.
The commissioners’ initial direction to staff earlier this year was to explore a reciprocal bidding preference, which is different from a local bidding preference. A local bidding preference gives businesses from within the county an allowance of a certain percentage, so that if the bid is very close and the local business is slightly outbid by an out-of-county business, the local business can still win the contract. A reciprocal preference uses the local preferences of other counties against businesses bidding on Calvert County contracts.
During the public comment period of the regular BOCC meeting Sept. 29, prior to the commissioners’ discussion of the local preference, Doris Cammack Spencer, Dawn Tucker and Michael Moore, representing various business groups, spoke out in support of a local bidding preference.
“This is a tool that’s imperative to how we sustain business in Calvert County,” Moore said.
Commissioner Tom Hejl (R) said he is in favor of a local bidding preference.
Tim Hayden, the director of the Calvert County Department of Finance and Budget, explained that with reciprocal preference the county uses another county’s local preference to the advantage of Calvert County’s local vendors, with a limit of up to $25,000. [Commission Vice president Evan] Slaughenhoupt noted that in St. Mary’s County, the amount is $50,000 so the proposed reciprocal preference in Calvert is not truly reciprocal.
Since Calvert does not have “home rule” powers, a change to these rules would need state legislative approval:
Any change to the bidding preference requires state legislation. County attorney John Norris said the earliest a change could be enacted if made into law would be Oct. 1 next year, unless it is considered emergency legislation, which could have an enactment date of July 1.