Atlantic County freeholders declined to establish a program at Tuesday’s meeting that would set aside public contracts for veteran-owned businesses.

The freeholders tabled an ordinance to establish a qualified veteran-owned business set-aside program that would reserve some county contracts for businesses owned by or employing veterans, Freeholder Colin Bell said.

He said freeholders expressed concern about the program’s implementation and said they hope to vote again at a meeting next month.

Bell, a Democrat who has championed the program, said the vote was 7-2, with all the Republicans voting to table and the two Democrats voting against the move.

"I am disappointed that the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders chose partisan politics over good public policy,” he said. “This shows they are more interested in lip service than the men and women in our service.”

If passed, the program would be implemented within 30 days of the establishment of state procedural guidelines or March 1, 2014, whichever comes first.

The proposal is based on a state law approved in January that allows counties and municipalities to create such veteran set-aside programs. To qualify, a business must be at least 51 percent owned by a veteran, or veterans must perform at least 25 percent of the work on the county contract.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.