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Posted at 11:57 AM ET, 10/22/2010

Concerns raised over Md. helicopter bid

By Washington Post editors

State Comptroller Peter Franchot is raising concerns about a $72 million contract approved this week by the Board of Public Works for the purchase of six helicopters because only one company submitted a bid, The Gazette reports.

Following two years of debate, the board approved the purchase of six AW139 helicopters from Agusta Aerospace Corp. The new helicopters will replace the 12 older-model Dauphin helicopters currently being used by state police for medical evacuations and other operations.

State police and Maryland Department of Transportation officials say the state got a 13 percent lower price than did New Jersey, which recently purchased the same model helicopter.

But Franchot (D) said the state will never know if it could have gotten a better deal, because other helicopter manufacturers did not submit bids.

"It's a mystery why we received only one bid," Franchot said, adding that he was critical of the request for proposals that might have kept three other major helicopter manufacturers from believing they had a chance of winning the contract. He did not elaborate on what might have prevented them from bidding.

Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for the comptroller's office, said Thursday that the other helicopter manufacturers had said the specifications detailed in the request for proposals had limited the types of helicopters that could be purchased.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) called the contract the "most scrutinized" since the one for the Bay Bridge and said that while he shared the comptroller's concerns, he also had heard from the relatives of the troopers killed when the state police helicopter dubbed Trooper 2 crashed Sept. 28, 2008, killing four of the five people on board. All had said they wanted safer helicopters, O'Malley added.

Read more about concerns being raised about Maryland's new state police helicopters in The Gazette.

By Washington Post editors  | October 22, 2010; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  Crime and Public Safety, Maryland  
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