"I support the project, but I don't support the way they're doing it," he said. "You should work within what you've been appropriated."

Maley said during the meeting, and in a follow-up interview Monday, that the contractor wants to proceed with construction as soon as possible.

He said warmer weather is preferable for the initial "earthwork" portion of construction because the soil is drier.

"They're anxious to go," Maley said during the meeting. "This is a perfect time of year to start digging."

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Maley said Monday public works officials are planning to schedule a preconstruction meeting with the contractor, and work is expected to begin in April.

The new EOC will be built on the property the current center occupies off Route 543 (Ady Road), just north of Bel Air in the Hickory are.

Two existing buildings will be torn down to build a new communications center.

The current communications center will remain open during construction, and emergency personnel will move into the new building when it is completed.

The former comminations center will then be torn down and a new HAZMAT center will be built, funded through a separate contract.

The Schafer firm's total bid of $28.6 million was the lowest of five bids for the project. The highest, offered by Hess Construction of Gaithersburg, was for $31.4 million, according to bid documents.