The Anne Arundel County Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution that will allow voters to decide this November whether the county can change the way it spends taxpayers' money.
If voters approve, the county's charter would be amended to allow the county to buy goods and services for up to $25,000 without a sealed competitive bid. The county now must solicit bids for any purchase over $10,000.
That threshold has been the same for 22 years, and it's time for a change, said Fred Schram, the county's central services officer.
"Just the rate of inflation over that time would have taken it up to a substantially larger amount," he said. In 1982, $10,000 "was considered a lot," he said. "But 22 years later it's time to update it."
Bidding is one way to ensure the county gets the most for taxpayer dollars, he said. But for smaller purchases, it can also add a "layer of bureaucracy," he said, that slows the business of government.
In the last fiscal year, 26 purchases fell into the $10,000-to-$25,000 range, he said. With a more streamlined process, more contractors would be willing to try to get those jobs, said council member Edward R. Reilly (R-Crofton). That, he said, could save the county money.
"A lot of contractors aren't willing to go through the lengthy process," he said. "It's just not worth the extra effort."
Two years ago the council passed a similar measure, but voters rejected it. That proposal would have allowed the council to decide what items to put through the sealed bid process, but did not include a dollar limit. In other words, very expensive contracts could have been awarded without a thorough bidding process.
On Monday, the council rejected another proposal to amend the charter. That change, which was defeated 4 to 3, would have enabled council members to add items to the annual budget proposal of the county executive. Council members now may only cut the executive's proposed budget.
Some council members have complained that they don't have enough power in the budget process. But council member C. Edward Middlebrooks (R-Glen Burnie), who voted against the measure, said the "existing system has been serving us well."
"It's not perfect. But I didn't see any need to change it at the last minute," he said.
Reilly, though, would have liked the voters to decide whether the council should have more say. "We have little control over the priorities we think are important," he said.
After Arrest, Worker Off Job
A part-time employee who worked at the Windsor Farm Elementary School day-care program and at the Broadneck summer day camp was arrested in Virginia Beach on Saturday and charged with attempting to solicit sex from an underage girl through the Internet.
The employee, Douglas Mark Stephany, 39, of Severna Park, has been relieved of his position until "the matter is adjudicated," said Dennis Callahan, director of recreation and parks for the county.
Callahan said that Stephany had gone through a federally mandated background check when he was hired two years ago and that he had been fingerprinted. Staffing ratios at the summer camp and the day-care center are such that "there are always two adults present and they are never left alone one-on-one with any child," he said. "We have to know as much about the people watching over our kids as we possibly can, and we are going to be redoubling our efforts."
Taxi Fares May Rise
Taking a taxicab around Anne Arundel County could get more expensive. The council is considering a measure to increase the rates cabbies charge. If approved, the rate for the first mile would jump from $3 to $3.40. The rate for every mile after that would increase from $1.40 to $1.60. The airport surcharge would grow from 50 cents per ride to 90 cents.
The increases, designed to help with rising fuel and insurance costs, would boost the cost of a five-mile cab ride to the airport from $8.60 to $9.80, not including the surcharge.