Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening and County Council Chairwoman Hilda R. Pemberton announced initiatives yesterday that contain a major concession to critics of the county's minority contracting practices.

Under the proposals, county purchasing agents would be given a variety of tools, including the option to restrict some contracts to minority firms alone, to meet the county's two-year-old goal to award 30 percent of contracts to minority companies.

Under the limited set-aside program, county purchasing agents could channel some contracts to minority companies as long as there are at least three certified minority businesses in competition and the low bid does not exceed by 15 percent the past price for the contract.

Glendening predicted that the purchasing department would use the option of restricting contracts "very rarely" because other initiatives would allow the county to meet its goal.

The set-aside program, however limited in scope, was the biggest concession to the black business community, which has charged that the county has not done enough to allow full participation in the county's economic boom.

Since the 30 percent goal was established in 1985, the portion of contracts going to minority firms went from 12 percent of $68 million in fiscal 1985 to 19 percent of $95 million in the fiscal year that ended in June.

The proposal is expected to be introduced formally today to the County Council, which is to consider it and competing plans for giving more county business to minority firms.

"It is a practical compromise to ensure that our total program gets through," said Glendening, who has opposed set-asides. "The strong concern by the black business community has heightened {the awareness} that we should try to close that 10 percent gap as quickly as possible."

Pemberton said, "We have put together a . . . package that will meet our goals: increased participation of the minority business community and the procurement of services for the county."

Glendening, who has met with business and community leaders on the need for the initiatives, said he expects that there will be some opposition and that some people "will look for a more dramatic program."

"We've indicated that this is the right thing to do," he said. "It's fair; its going to work."

Kenneth Duncan, president of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, called the proposal a "conscientious effort."

"We understand the position the county executive and the County Council are in," Duncan said. "We want to be reasonable."

The Coalition for Black Economic Development, a group representing the NAACP, the National Business League and the Black Democratic Council, and one of the most vocal critics of the county's progress on minority procurement, is working on its own legislative package. The coalition wants the county to mandate that 37 percent of all contracts go to minority firms.

Also as part of the Glendening-Pemberton package, an independent seven-member commission would be created to monitor the program, suggest changes, review contracting procedures -- such as payment schedules and the policy on joint ventures -- and monitor the program for abuse.

The commission would hear appeals of decisions to stop giving contracts to any minority firm found guilty of fraud or providing inaccurate or incomplete financial information.

The county would require that all contractors use at least 20 percent minority subcontractors, expanding an existing program that applies only to construction.

The county could bypass the bidding process and directly negotiate with a minority firm on contracts valued up to $15,000, triple the current limit.

Bonus rating points would be used to improve the chances of minority firms getting contracts worth $500,000 or less, and some county supervisors would be given individual minority procurement goals to meet.Staff writer Sue Anne Pressley contributed to this report.