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From the Desk of
County Councilman Kirby Delauter

(7/2015) This month weíll look at some of the spending that is being initiated by the County Executive, Jan Gardner. One of the things she is adding is a highway crew of nine people. Now, when you look at this, you could say, "Hey Delauter, whatís the big deal about hiring nine people when the budget is around half a billion dollars?" Let me answer that for you, itís a big deal because simply, itís not necessary. If we are to keep spending taxpayer money on unnecessary items, where do we stop?

Let me explain how this came about. During the last administration under the Board of County Commisioners, we outsourced a lot of county functions that were a duplication of services, or as my favorite saying states "if we can find a company in the yellow pages that performs a task, the county shouldnít be in that business". In this case the County Executive, Jan Gardner used a fictitious and just plain false claim in order to justify hiring these people to make up the new highway crew. She stated that the county procurement department placed a bid for a culvert project and it cost the county an extra $360,000 in order that a private company perform this work. Now, on the surface you may think, "Hey Delauter, the CE Gardner has a point." But if you look deeper into what actually happened, and ask the right questions, you will find that this move on the part of CE Gardner does not pass the straight face test.

When we discussed this issue, I asked Chuck Nipe, the head of Public Works to explain to me how the county spent an extra $360,000 to do this work, and how he felt the county could have saved money by doing the work themselves? He explained that the private contractorís bid was $500,000 and that the county forces by doing this "in house" could have done the work for $140,000.

The first red flag to get my attention was the fact that county forces are not held to the same standards as private companies. Private companies have to abide by offsite dumping rules, where we have to have an approved site to haul removed spoils from a site. In the countyís case, just take a ride out to Seiss Road in Thurmont where a county road crew just worked on some ditch improvements and placed a culvert across Seiss Road.

You can see from the road where they illegally dumped the excess materials, including asphalt in a nearby swale in a farm field. A private contractor would be stoned in the town square for this. The county took no compaction tests on the backfill of the roadway, and no tests on the asphalt patch. A private contractor has to do both. The county placed no sediment controls, a private contractor would have to do that. The county shut down the road to do this work, a private contractor would be forced to set up traffic control, which is far more dangerous, and more expensive. These are some reasons why a private contractor just may be more cost to do the same job, but the next item I will explain is the real reason CE Gardner is totally incorrect on her assessment and hired these people for the wrong reason.

I kept asking questions and finally came to the realization of how bad a decision this was. I asked Mr. Nipe a simple question, " How many bids did you receive"? His answer, "only one bid". I asked him, "How could you determine if this was a good price, if you only received one bid"? His answer, "we donít know"? You know what, I agree! We donít know that answer. I then asked him why the county awarded the contract if they only received one bid? It is common practice to not accept that single bid (the county reserves the right to accept or reject any and all bids) and to place the project out for re-bid.

So, the long and short of this is, it was the fault of the county for awarding a bid on a contract that was $360,000 higher than their estimate to do the work. They cannot blame a contractor for simply bidding the work and executing the job once the county awarded it! It is the fault of the county plain and simple!

This just tells me two things, CE Gardner has no idea how to run this county effectively, or she is simply hiring more employees so when she gives them more holidays and personal time off (paid of course) itís a simple solution to buy future votes with taxpayer money. If youíre a county employee, who are you voting for, a candidate who wants to rein in spending, or CE Gardner who states the sky is the limit for taxpayer funded perks and benefits.

That right there is the crux of this debate. As usual, I give you the facts, you decide what is the most effective way to run county government.

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