Worcester Wants Bidding Process For Landfill Engineering Work

SNOW HILL – In spite of a staff recommendation, the Worcester County Commissioners opted not to waive the bid process for engineering services at local landfills this week.

When John Tustin, the county’s director of public works, asked the commissioners to approve a two-year extension of EA Engineering’s contract, officials told him they would rather put the work out to bid.

“I can’t help feel we’re not being good stewards here by continually waiving the bid,” Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw said.

Tustin proposed extending the roughly $50,000, two-year contract the county had with EA Engineering so the company could continue providing the groundwater monitoring required at the county’s closed landfills. Tustin said that the Maryland Department of the Environment mandated that groundwater be checked twice each year once landfills were closed.

“We’re in a continual cycle now monitoring these closed landfills for 30 years,” he said.

The previous two-year contract with EA Engineering cost the county $50,130. The proposed extension would cost $51,340.

“They continue to be competitive with other vendors,” Tustin said.

Lockfaw pointed out that the county had used EA Engineering for years.

“I think they’ve done a reasonable job for the county,” he said, “but at the same time in all those years I’ve continually heard ‘waive the bid’ for EA.”

Tustin said it wasn’t uncommon for those in his field to use a company for a long period of time. EA Engineering, he said, had been the county’s solid waste consultant since 1986 and was familiar with the county’s landfill history, as its staff had handled design, construction, permitting and more for the facilities.

Lockfaw said the county had paid for the data that had been collected by EA Engineering.

“If someone else were to bid, that history could be made available to them,” he said. “I just feel as though we set a precedent here for sole source bidding. It’s not fair to the county. It’s not fair to other companies.”

Tustin said there was probably only one other company in the area that could do the groundwater monitoring. He added that the two-year contract essentially cost just $8,000 per landfill, as three required the groundwater testing.

“When you get a contractor on board who becomes familiar with us it involves very little staff time,” he said.

Lockfaw said he respected Tustin’s recommendation but believed the county needed to ensure that all contracts went out to bid.

Commissioner Ted Elder agreed.

“If you’ve been dealing with them since 1986, how do you know you’re getting the best deal?” he said.

Commissioner Chip Bertino said if the county put the work out to bid EA Engineering would have the opportunity to submit a bid.

Because the groundwater needs to be checked in September and the bid process is expected to take three months, the commissioners agreed to have EA Engineering perform the testing in September as the county was in the midst of the bid process.