Minority-run firm sues over city schools contract

The city school board's decision to declare an "emergency" so it could award a no-bid food contract to an Ohio firm has sparked a lawsuit from a local minority-run firm that was the low bidder.

Eastern Food Services, which is run by Sam Kim and his father, filed the lawsuit in city Circuit Court last month. A hearing on a temporary injunction to block the contract is scheduled for Tuesday. The lawsuit alleges that the school board illegally awarded the contract to Clovervale Farms Inc., a firm that is not minority-owned and has no experience in food distribution.

Eastern says the contract is worth about $22 million over three years and because the city did not accept its low bid, it will cost taxpayers an additional $770,000. The contract involves providing and delivering frozen and refrigerated food and paper goods such as napkins to 185 schools.

The lawsuit says that when Eastern protested the bid being given to Clovervale, the school board declared an emergency -- saying that food must be available for the beginning of the school year -- and awarded the contract on a no-bid basis.

The board argues that Clovervale can meet a requirement to award at least 7 percent of subcontracts to minority- and women-owned business, while Eastern had requested a waiver from that requirement.

In addition, the school board says in court papers, Eastern was unable to provide all of the food items outlined in a new school wellness policy.

Sara Neufeld

Baltimore: Internet

Residents can pay water bills online

The Baltimore Department of Public Works has put information about water bills on the Internet, enabling the public to access bill data and pay the bill online. People will be able to get account information, bill balance, meter reading dates and the amount and date of payments. City officials said they hope the online service will reduce the volume of calls about water bills, which number about 20,000 a month. To access the data, users will need to know either the account number or exact address. Account holders' names are not available on the system. The site is: http:--cityservices.baltimore

Road repair

Northern Parkway traffic to be affected

Westbound traffic will be reduced to a single lane on Northern Parkway between Falls Road and Rogers Avenue, and the northbound Jones Falls Expressway exit ramp to westbound Northern Parkway will be closed from 8 a.m. today until 5 a.m. Monday, the city Department of Transportation announced. The changes are because of road-restoration work. The department advised motorists to avoid the area by using the JFX exit to westbound Cold Spring Lane and turning right onto Greenspring Avenue, Park Heights Avenue or Reisterstown Road to get back to Northern Parkway.


Bank robbery plea means 17 more years

A 62-year-old convicted murderer from Baltimore will return to prison for 17 more years after pleading guilty yesterday in federal court to bank robbery. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake enhanced the sentence of Robert Koch based on his previous convictions, including bank robbery in 1972, and first-degree murder in 1973 According to his plea, Koch and another man robbed at gunpoint the Morrell Park Deli at 2500 block of Washington Blvd. in Baltimore on Feb. 22, 2005.

Matthew Dolan

Frederick County: Sentencing

Five-year term imposed in arson

A federal judge sentenced a Frederick County man yesterday to five years in prison for trying to burn down the Thurmont farm cooperative where he once worked. William Coates, 39, pleaded guilty to arson, admitting that on Dec. 31, he set Thurmont Cooperative Inc. ablaze. The late-night fire caused more than $300,000 in damage, prosecutors said. At the hearing yesterday, attorneys did not say what the motive for the fire had been. Coates had been on workers' compensation when he committed the arson.

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