The D.C. Department of Human Services, which has been criticized recently for delays in implementing alcohol and drug treatment programs, has delayed opening two 25-bed programs for drug-addicted youths.

Department officials said yesterday that because of opposition from the community near Catholic University, they don't know when one of the centers, at the former Mary Herring home for alcoholics at 700 Monroe St. NE, will open.

The other center, to be located on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast, is not expected to open until July because building renovations still must be done.

Department officials had promised that both centers would be operating by the end of March.

In the meantime, two contractors who were hired by the department in February and April to operate the centers have been assigned to provide other types of services -- a situation that one department official acknowledged "is not ideal."

D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe said yesterday that he had "a number of questions" about how the two contractors were chosen.

In November, the department requested bids to run a treatment program at the former Mary Herring home. Two firms, Trans-Management Systems Corp. and A.L. Nellum and Associates Inc., submitted proposals.

An evaluation team rated Nellum's proposal as better than Trans-Management's, according to city documents.

Despite the scores by the evaluation team, department officials awarded Trans-Management a $343,731 contract to run the center through September. Two months later, the department awarded Nellum a $269,960 contract to run the center at St. Elizabeths. The city awarded that contract, which also expires in September, without soliciting new bids.

David Rivers, director of the department, said yesterday that he saw no impropriety in how the contracts were awarded. He said that the department carried out a competitive bidding process and that neither Trans-Management nor Nellum lost out.

Grady Williams, chief of the department's office of administration, said department officials believed there was no need to issue a second request for bids because both contracts called for the same services. He said the department found the money for the second center only after the request for bids had gone out on the first.

Troupe, however, said that although he could not judge without seeing the department's records, both contracts appeared to be "sole-source," or awarded noncompetitively.

While waiting for the opening of the old Mary Herring center, Trans-Management is providing services to youths at outpatient facilities, department officials said. Since February, the firm has been paid $78,568 -- part of which will cover future costs. The firm has billed the city for only $43,259 in work, department officials said.