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Conduit Street Podcast: Headlines & Happenings – Education, #NG911, Goucher Poll, Disaster Response, & Small Cells

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally discuss the latest news and happenings around Maryland.

Listen in to hear updates on the [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, the Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland, interesting tidbits from the most recent Goucher Poll, mutual aid in the wake of natural disasters, and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)proposed order intended to streamline and reduce industry’s costs for the deployment of small cells in local right of ways at the expense of local authority.

Listen here:

MACo has made the podcast available through both iTunes and Google Play Music by searching Conduit Street Podcast. You can also listen on our Conduit Street blog with a recap and link to the podcast.

You can listen to previous episodes of the Conduit Street Podcast on our website.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Conduit Street Podcast: Keeping up with Kirwan

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Kirwan Commission Aims to Revamp “At-Risk” Funding Formulas

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Commission to Advance #NG911 Holds First Meeting

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Questions About #NG9-1-1? MACo Has You Covered

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo Submits Concerns to FCC Over Small Cell Order

Let the Sunshine In – Register Now For MACo Solar Symposium

 

MACo, in partnership with the Sierra Club of Maryland and Solar United Neighbors, is offering a free one-day symposium to county officials (elected and non-elected) on the benefits and challenges of siting community and utility-scale solar generation facilities within your county.

The symposium, titled Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland, will provide an overview of solar’s role in Maryland, including existing laws; offer perspectives from different stakeholders, such as agriculture, community/health, and the environmental community; discuss local zoning and taxation best practices; and showcase several solar “success stories.” The symposium will be concluded with an open facilitated discussion where attendees can raise solar-related issues and questions important to their local jurisdiction.

 

Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland

  • Date: Thursday, October 11, 2018
  • Time: 10:00 am – 3:45 pm (morning coffee and lunch provided)
  • Location: North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road, Laurel MD 20723
  • Eligible Attendees: County elected and non-elected officials
  • Cost: Free but registration is required

Session Objectives

  • Provide key information on factors affecting solar energy development in Maryland relevant to the needs and policy decisions of county officials
  • Present examples of Best Practices in solar development
  • Offer opportunity for dialogue among county officials and experts engaged in specific technical and policy areas relevant to solar development

Space is limited and registrations are accepted on a first come, first serve basis. A full agenda will be released shortly. For further questions about the symposium, please contact Les Knapp at lknapp@mdcounites.org or 410.269.0043.

Useful Links

Register for Let the Sunshine In: Solar Siting in Maryland 

Sierra Club of Maryland Website

Solar United Neighbors Website

 

 

MACo Submits Concerns to FCC Over Small Cell Order

MACo submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a proposed order intended to streamline and reduce industry’s costs for the deployment of small cells in local right of ways at the expense of local authority. The FCC will vote at its September 26, 2018 open meeting on the order.

From MACo’s letter:

Expanding broadband access is an essential component for a county’s economic development and for the socio-economic advancement of its communities. However, MACo is concerned that the proposed language significantly impedes local authority over the expansion of broadband in public rights of way. It does not properly balance industry desires and public welfare.

Local governments are owners and guardians of taxpayer-funded infrastructure inside the local rights of way. Local authority and community decision-making are crucial to the deployment of small cells or any facilities in the local rights of way. Local governments must be able to protect the safety and interest of their communities.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, that the proposed FCC order would create new categories of “shot clocks”, limit application fees for all small wireless facilities, limit recurring fees for small cells in public rights-of-way, and limit allowable local aesthetic requirements among other limitations on local governments. Local governments are bound to manage deployments under FCC requirements.

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

NACo Prompts County Action to Comment on FCC Small Cell Order

Hagerstown Highlights High Costs of New Phase II MS4 Permits

Herald-Mail Media article (2018-09-15) examined the significant fiscal costs facing those counties and municipalities subject to the newest version of the Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. The new Phase II permits, set to take effect October 31, require a local jurisdiction to upgrade the stormwater treatment capabilities for 20 percent of their existing impervious surface. The article specifically focused on how this new requirement would affect Hagerstown.

The article noted that Hagerstown has been subject to a Phase II MS4 permit since 2002 and has roughly 2,200 acres of untreated impervious surface, meaning that the city must treat 400 to 450 acres under the new 20 percent requirement. An advisory group has been looking at how the city can meet the 20 percent requirement since this March. From the article:

“That’s mainly all the buildings, streets, roadways, rooftops in what I’ll call the downtown area,” [Hagerstown Assistant City Engineer Jim]Bender said in an interview Thursday. “It’s been here the longest. It’s been here for 150, 200 years or more. … Nobody ever thought of providing water quality treatment.”

Speaking before the Hagerstown City Council this past week, Bender estimated it could cost about $25 million to $30 million to satisfy the permit, which runs through 2023.

The article noted that the advisory group and the city were considering a variety of methods to meet the impervious surface restoration requirement but faced significant challenges. Retrofits to existing stormwater facilities are one of the most cost-effective treatment methods but many of these facilities are privately owned, requiring the city to undertake complicated negotiations with property owners. Another preferred method is forest planting, but the city’s limited free space and fiscal resources makes such projects very challenging.

Bender also noted in the article that the city is still considering how to pay for the required stormwater projects and are considering the imposition of a stormwater remediation fee (also known as a “rain tax.” However, Bender cautioned that it was “premature” to say the advisory group would include a fee recommendation when its work concludes in December.

The new Phase II MS4 permits will apply to the following counties: Calvert, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Washington, and Wicomico. Ten other Maryland counties are subject to a broader Phase I permit that is specifically tailored for each jurisdiction.

Useful Links

Anne Arundel Aspires for Accessible Accountability

An Anne Arundel County news release (2018-09-17) announced that County Executive Steve Schuh is proposing a series of ethics reforms for the County. The reforms would address ethics training, gift restrictions, penalties for lobbying violations, and the law’s applicability to County board and commission members.

From the news release:

Our citizens deserve a fair, honest, and transparent government. These reforms will ensure that we instill the highest ethical standards across Anne Arundel County.

– Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh

The ethics reform proposal includes provisions:

  • Requiring mandatory ethics training for all County employees and elected officials, every five years.
  • Implementing stricter gift restriction on meals and beverages.
  • Increasing the penalties on lobbyists who violate the Ethics Code

I applaud the Administration’s focus on public ethics, and the proposed changes will ensure Anne Arundel County’s Public Ethics Law remains one of the most comprehensive in the state.

– Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission Executive Director Michael Botsaris

The news release also stated that the reforms would be implemented by the Commission.

Capital Gazette editorial (2018-09-19) expressed support for the ethics proposal but also urged the reforms include a ban on “anyone accepting a county-funded paycheck from acting as a lobbyist before county or state government agencies or legislative bodies” (unless specifically lobbying on behalf of their county agency).

Speaker Busch Recovering From Heart Bypass Surgery

[photo, Michael E. Busch, House Speaker]
Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch (Source: Maryland Manual Online)
A Washington Post article (2018-09-20) reported that Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch underwent an unplanned heart bypass surgery on September 19, 2018, and is currently in recovery. The article stated that Busch had the surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center after developing difficulty in breathing during a routine testing procedure. From the article:

He is awake, alert and is expected to make a full recovery. He will return to work and the campaign trail in the next few weeks.

– Busch Chief of Staff Alexandra Hughes

The article also mentioned that Busch also underwent a liver transplant in June of 2017.

Maryland Plans to Sue Trump Administration After EPA Denies Air Emissions Request

Baltimore Sun article (2018-09-17) reported that Maryland will challenge a recent decision of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denying Maryland’s request for limitations on coal plant emissions from upwind states. EPA’s decision marks a setback in the Maryland Department of the Environment’s efforts to curb significant amounts of ozone pollution that migrates from other states.

An estimated 70 percent of Maryland’s ozone pollution originates in other states. In response, Maryland petitioned EPA under the federal Clean Air Act to require coal power plants in 5 states to run already installed ozone emission controls between the months of May and September. Affected states include Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Maryland submitted its petition in November of 2016 and EPA initially proposed denying the petition in May of 2018. EPA finalized its denial on September 14.

The article noted that Maryland will challenge EPA’s denial in federal appeals court. From the article:

Now, “litigation is the next step,” said Ben Grumbles, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment. …

The “EPA’s decision is wrong,” [Maryland Attorney General Brian] Frosh said. “If it is allowed to stand, the air Marylanders breathe will be dirtier, especially on the hottest days of the summer — through no fault of ours.”

The article also stated that most of Maryland’s congressional delegation support the State’s legal appeal.

Useful Links

Prior Conduit Street Coverage

Commission to Advance #NG911 Holds First Meeting

The Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) Across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative that will help Maryland prepare for the deployment of a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 system that our residents expect and deserve, held its first meeting today in Annapolis.

Maryland residents demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows.

The Commission will examine the strategic aspects of NG9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the existing efforts of the Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), with a particular emphasis on addressing areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

The Commission wasted no time getting to work. Senator Cheryl Kagan, Senate sponsor of the MACo legislation to establish the Commission, was elected Chair. Steve Souder, former Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications in Fairfax, Virginia, was elected Vice Chair.

In order to meet the initial reporting deadline of December 1, 2018, the Commission established four subcommittees – Funding, Staffing, Technology & Cybersecurity, & Oversight and Accountability. Each subcommittee will work to draft preliminary recommendations. Once the subcommittees have completed their work, they will present their recommendations to the full Commission.

Because county governments are at the heart of 9-1-1 service delivery, MACo prepared and submitted to the Commission a Next Generation 9-1-1 White Paper. MACo hopes to continue to serve as a resource for additional information from county governments throughout the Commission’s deliberations.

MACo’s Legislative Committee voted at their September 12, 2018 meeting to adopt the Association’s four priorities for the 2019 Session. Updating state laws, and the 9-1-1 financing system, to provide the flexibility and resources needed for the transition to NG9-1-1, will again be a top priority for county governments.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

MACo NG9-1-1 White Paper

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Commission to Advance #NG9-1-1 Set to Convene

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Signs MACo’s 9-1-1 Initiative Bill

City Trash Cans Get a High-Tech Makeover

What is solar-powered, comes with Wi-Fi, and can notify its owners when it’s full? Baltimore City’s new “smart” trash cans!

The City has contracted with a company to install 4,000 of these new trash cans around the city to help improve trash collection and cleanliness.

WMAR reports:

These smart cans are so smart that the cans will let sanitation workers know when it’s time to empty them! The solar-powered cans come with Wi-Fi, which allows it to send information when it’s full to prevent overflowing.

Each trash can also acts as a trash compactor, so it can make more room until it needs to be emptied.

Visit WMAR to learn more.

Feds Award Maryland $39 Million to Fund Fight Against Opioids

Federal funding awarded to Maryland will be used to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and to fund community health centers, academic institutions, and rural organizations that are providing treatment services.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded over $1 billion dollars in opioid crisis funding this week with Maryland receiving $39.1 million of that pie.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports:

The awards, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) come as part of the federal government’s “Five-Point Strategy” for facing the opioid epidemic, which it unveiled last year. The strategy calls for better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services; better data on addiction and overdoses nationwide; better pain management strategies; better use of overdose reversing drugs like Naloxone; and better research around the overall effects of the epidemic.

Read The Baltimore Business Journal to learn more.

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Feds to Grant Maryland $10M for Opioid Crisis