Protest Overruled in County Project Bid

SNOW HILL – A formal protest by a losing bidder on the Worcester County State’s Attorney building construction project did not prevail, with the Worcester County Commissioners exercising their right to waive bid requirements in choosing the best bid.

Nason Construction, which submitted the second lowest bid to build the new State’s Attorney offices, protested the selection of Southern Builders as low bidder because of the late submission of the firm’s anti-bribery affidavit, anti-collusion affidavit, and a copy the firm’s Maryland Construction License. The documents arrived over an hour after the bid deadline. The bid packet was submitted on time.

“Of the eight bidders on the project, Southern Builders submitted the only bid that was deficient on its face,” Mike Dashiell, preconstruction manager for Nason Construction, wrote in a letter of protest to Gerry Mason, Worcester County’s chief administrator.

The late arrival of those three documents, which did not affect the bid, was just a minor technicality, said Ed Todd of Todd and Associates Architects.

Commissioner Bobby Cowger protested the decision to endorse the Southern Builders bid. “We are not setting a good example, not holding the line on our own bids,” Cowger said. “If they don’t abide by [the bid requirements] the bid should be refused.”

Cowger said general contractors might stop bidding on county projects if the County Commissioners do not follow their own rules.

“If we throw it out and take the next low bidder, it is $50,000 [more],” Todd said.

However, Commissioner Bud Church urged his colleagues to stick to the bid requirements. “We have guidelines and rules and we need to follow them,” he said.  

The bid instructions always include a disclaimer: “In awarding the bid, the commissioners reserve the right to reject any and all bids, waive formalities, informalities and technicalities therein, and to take whatever bid they determine to be in the best interest of the county.”

Cowger said the rules were explicit. “We’ve said many times nothing gets submitted after the time period,” he said.

But others said the process has been skirted before if there were abnormalities. “Before, we’ve also said we would re-bid,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

“If they don’t submit all the requested bid documents, we throw the bid out. That’s standard procedure,” said Cowger.

The staff is fine with the late submission of those documents, assistant county administrator Kelly Shanahan said.

The commissioners voted 6-1 to accept Southern Builders’ bid with Cowger the dissenting vote.