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Calling For Hosts, ICMA Conference: Assistants’ Exchange Program

The Assistants’ Exchange Program is an opportunity, at the Annual ICMA Conference, to meet other local government professionals and learn how other communities deliver services, engage citizens and plan for the future.

Participants spend the Friday before the conference as the guest of a participating local government in the Baltimore area (within ~45 minute drive). On Friday morning, participants will be transported from their hotels to their host communities where they will tour government operations, attend meetings, and discuss the programs, people, and issues affecting the community. Transportation to and from the participant’s hotel is facilitated by the host.

The 104th ICMA Conference will take place in Baltimore, MD September 23-26, 2018.

If you are interested in hosting one or more participants, please email Jason Damweber at

Commission Pushes Prevailing Wage Study, Increase in State School Construction Funding

In its final decision meeting, the 21st Century School Facilities Commission settles on recommendations that could bring big shifts in statewide school construction funding, if they are enacted by the General Assembly.

Martin Knott chaired the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, the closest study of statewide school construction programs in more than a decade.

The 21st Century School Facilities Commission, called the Knott Commission after its chair Martin Knott is wrapping up its work in time for its recommendations to become legislation in the 2018 session of the General Assembly. At the same time, the recommendations have no force of law unless they are enacted, and, even for recommendation that are picked up and introduced as legislation, there will be many changes to them as they wind their way through the legislative process.

Still, a look at where this 1+ year long Commission, appointed by the Presiding Officers of the General Assembly, has finished, is warranted. Some of the recommendations were surprising, even to one who watched the whole process.

For example, the Commission ultimately recommended a phased-in increase in the State’s school construction funding to $400 million annually, even though the hot topic of discussion over the course of the year has been on cutting costs rather than increasing funding. And the Commission recommended examining the effect of prevailing wage requirements on school construction costs, even though efforts since 2014 to repeal the State’s extra-broad application of prevailing wage laws to school construction have all decidedly failed.

County governments have a fundamental role in funding school construction projects. While county allocations vary from district to district, when contributions to school construction are totaled statewide, counties are providing the lion’s share of funding, as compared with the State’s annual allowance of approximately $340 million.

As described in a Letter to Martin Knott from MACo’s President and Executive Director that was distributed at the decision meeting, many of the Commission’s draft recommendations paralleled MACo’s past advocacy in school construction.

With regard to the county role in funding school construction, a few Knott Commission recommendations of interest include asking the State to:

  • Review state design standards and guidelines to ensure they are aligned with funding allowances
  • Streamline state review processes to minimize unnecessary delays
  • Provide incentives for use of prototype school designs
  • Repeal the requirement that all schools must qualify as emergency shelters
  • Request that the Maryland Green Building Council develop guidelines for achieving the equivalent of LEED Silver standards without requiring LEED certification
  • Explore the possibility of creating a school construction authority to issue revenue-backed bonds, or creating a revolving loan fund to help counties with their local share of construction projects.
  • Provide a financial incentive to counties willing to explore alternative financing.
  • Update the state-local cost share at least every 2 years (rather than every 3 years)

The final meeting of the Knott Commission included some discussion of the Interagency Committee on School Construction (IAC) and its role, a topic that was cresting when the Commission began its work last year. Two members of the IAC are also Commissioners, which made for an interesting dynamic. Ultimately, the Commission recommended eliminated certain reviews by the IAC, but stated that a State certification process should be established by the IAC/Department of General Services that results in a renewable, multi-year certification for successful school systems.

A statement written by the Chair himself, and adopted by the Commission was intended to get to the heart of the Commission’s perspective. Without mentioning the IAC by name, this statement raises some of the Commission’s earlier vision of an IAC that is providing professional expertise.

The process for evaluating school construction projects for State funding should be locally driven using a merit-based, apolitical process. Each stage of the process should include appropriate State oversight that adds value by utilizing professional expertise to build modern, efficient, and high quality public school facilities for Maryland’s students.

For more information, see the the Knott Commission Decision Meeting Materials.

The report of the Commission will be released in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage.

Environmental Groups Argue Exelon Can Help Address Conowingo Dam & Still Be Profitable

Bay Journal article (2017-12-05) reported that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy released a study on the role Exelon should play in addressing the water pollution issued caused by the Conowingo Dam. The study, conducted by Energy+Environmental Economics and the Water and Power Law Group, found that the dam generates between $27 million and $44 million annually in additional revenue (beyond industry standards). Based on those results, CBF and The Nature Conservancy argued that Exelon can play a role in mitigating the pollution caused by the dam’s reservoir while still remaining profitable. The article contained comments from both environmental groups and Exelon:

An Exelon spokeswoman responded with a statement disputing the study’s estimates of the dam’s future revenues and profitability, saying they are based on “flawed assumptions and theories.”  Deena O’Brien, the spokeswoman, said that the company is committed to being a good neighbor, but shouldn’t be held accountable for pollution passing through the dam.

“It’s important to note that Conowingo’s operations do not generate sediment,” O’Brien said. “Most of the sediment that impacts the Bay comes from upstream sources.  As such, the regional sources of sediment across the basin should take joint responsibility for the issue, not a single company or entity.” …

“We are not looking to have Exelon be responsible for everything that is no longer being trapped because of the reservoir being full,” Alison Prost, Maryland director of the Bay Foundation, said in a conference call with reporters.

Rather, said Mark Bryer, the conservancy’s Chesapeake Bay director, the groups want Exelon to mitigate the dam’s impact in two different ways — by funding some pollution reduction measures elsewhere that would offset what’s now being passed downriver, and by altering the flows of water through the dam.


The article also noted that the public has until January 15 to submit written comments on Exelon’s Conwingo Dam relicensing application with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). MDE’s approval is the final permission Exelon needs to complete the federal/state relicensing process. The public should send comment to Elder Ghigiarelli, Jr.,  Deputy Administrator, Wetlands and Waterways Program, Water and Science Administration, Maryland Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 430, Baltimore, MD 21230, or email them to

CBF press release (2017-12-05) provided greater detail on the the environmental groups’ point of view :

A new study commissioned by [CBF] and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) shows Exelon Generation Company can mitigate a substantial portion of environmental impacts caused by its Conowingo Dam operation, while continuing to make a healthy profit.

“The good news that comes with this report is that Conowingo’s environmental performance can be brought into the 21st century with effective mitigation measures while the dam continues to provide low carbon energy and Exelon receives a reasonable return on its investment,” said Mark Bryer, TNC’s Chesapeake Program Director. …

“More pollution will come through the Conowingo Dam and into the Bay than scientists previously calculated,” said CBF President Will Baker. “Exelon has the responsibility and revenue to pay for its share of the solution.” …

Recent studies affirmed that while most of the sediment and phosphorus in the dam reservoir originates upstream, the dam itself also worsens downstream water quality because it alters the form of the sediments and phosphorus and the timing of their discharge. Other studies have shown that Conowingo discharges water in a way that is more harmful to fish and habitat than average dams elsewhere.

Exelon has filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a new operating license for the Conowingo Dam. Under federal law and FERC’s relicensing process, Exelon is required to obtain a Clean Water Act Water Quality Certification from MDE. Exelon must demonstrate that the dam’s operation meets Maryland’s water quality standards. MDE will hold a public hearing on the certification today, December 5, 2017. The public has until January 15, 2018 to submit written comments.

CBF and TNC both are scheduled to testify at the public hearing. They will urge that MDE require Exelon to: 1) mitigate the harm the dam causes to downstream water quality, including a financial contribution to mitigate sediment and nutrient pollution; 2) make operational changes to restore safe and effective habitat for migratory fish like American shad and striped bass–and for keystone species like freshwater mussels and aquatic vegetation; and 3) make structural investments to restore fish passage connectivity to upstream spawning habitats.

Useful Links

Conowingo Dam Economic Study

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Website

The Nature Conservancy Website

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the Conowingo Dam

Highlights from OIT Promising Practices Swap and Share

Every seat in the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center conference room was filled for the Opioid Operational Command Center’s Opioid Intervention Team (OIT) Promising Practices Swap & Share held on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Attendees from OIT teams from across the state were eager to learn from their peers and to share their own promising practices for tackling the opioid epidemic. Here are some highlights:

Opening Remarks

Counterclockwise from top: Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, Maryland Department of Health Secretary Dennis Schrader, Maryland Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Russell Strickland, MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu.
Counterclockwise from top: Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, Maryland Department of Health Secretary Dennis Schrader, Maryland Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Russell Strickland, MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu.

Baltimore City’s LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) Program

This pilot program is a partnership between law enforcement and behavioral health providers  to divert low-level drug offenders into treatment and support services instead of prosecution and jail. Officers bring low-level offenders  a LEAD case manager to connect them with services instead of arresting them and taking them to jail.

Clay Stamp, Executive Director of the Opioid Operational Command Center delivering remarks. (photo courtesy Before It's Too Late)
Clay Stamp, Executive Director of the Opioid Operational Command Center delivering remarks. (photo courtesy Before It’s Too Late)

Wicomico County’s COAT (Community Outreach Addiction Team) Program

The COAT program uses peer support specialists to identify individuals in need of education and outreach and to serve as a bridge to treatment services. Designated as a Promising Practice from NACCHO (National Association of City and County Health Officers) COAT has a $1:$6.66 return on investment.

Anne Arundel County’s Safe Stations and Mobile Crisis Teams

This initiative provides individuals suffering from addiction a means to get 24/7 walk-in assistance at police and fire stations across the county. Since the inception of the Safe Station program on April 20, 2017, through November 30, 2017, there have been 373 assessments and a 62% success rate of individuals completing treatment.

St. Mary’s County and Cumberland City’s Emergency Petitions

These two jurisdictions have programs in which law enforcement officers can file a petition for emergency
evaluation for possible involuntary hospitalization after reviving an individual from an overdose. They have worked closely with their attorneys to overcome legal concerns, and continue to work to address challenges with hospital data and protocols.

Tyrone Roper from Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore discusses the City's LEAD pilot program.
Tyrone Roper from Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore discusses the City’s LEAD pilot program.

Bon Secours’ Hospital Emergency Department Overdose Services

Their services include a process for screening and scoring individuals admitted to the emergency room for withdrawal symptoms. These individuals can be referred to peer coaches and recommended to doctors as a good candidate for suboxone. The initial dose can be prescribed in the emergency room to help the patient until they can be connected with treatment services the next day.

Howard County’s Correctional Facility Treatment and Transition from Incarceration 

To meet the challenges of addressing opioid addiction Howard County is using SBIRT in their jails. The process and services have been tailored to meet the needs of a population of individuals who are difficult to treat because of the short time periods they spend in jail  — 30% leave within one day and 70% within thirty days.

Jillian Beach, a family member impacted by the opioid crisis with Lieutenant Governor Rutherford and County Executive Kittleman. (photo courtesy Before It's Too Late)
Jillian Beach, a family member impacted by the opioid crisis with Lieutenant Governor Rutherford and County Executive Kittleman. (photo courtesy Before It’s Too Late)

Washington County’s Day Reporting Center

The first of its kind in Maryland, the center was five years in the making and came to fruition with the help of the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force and funding through GOCCP.  There are currently looking to expand the program to include in house mental health services and the pre-trial population.

Baltimore City’s Needle Exchange Program and Overdose and Rapid Detection Efforts

The City’s needle exchange program was the first in the state. The program seeks to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C by providing clean syringes. Individuals are also linked to treatment services and provided with overdose response training. Through the City’s overdose and rapid detection effort people can receive email and text alerts about regions where responders are seeing particularly lethal batches of drugs to help them avoid those bad batches. The regions are broad so that it can’t be used as a tool for finding dealers.

Baltimore/Washington HIDTA’s Overdose Detection (OD) Map

OD map was launched a year ago with Anne Arundel County being one of the first in the nation to get on board. The map is now live in 23 states and is a vital tool for cross jurisdictional sharing of overdose and nonfatal overdose information (including location, drug types, and victim demographics).

Eric Robey from the Harford County Sheriff's Office presents on H.O.P.E House.
Eric Robey from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office presents on H.O.P.E House.

Kent County’s LDAAC and Whitsitt Center Crisis Stabilization, Detox, and Case Management

The county’s Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (LDAAC) has focused its efforts on the gaps of services to the family of those suffering from addiction. Peer specialists take a unique proactive approach of going out to the individual and their family rather than waiting for them to reach out for help.

Carroll County’s Integrated Behavioral Health, Substance Use Treatment, Resource Support, and Case Management Program

This unique partnership of public and private health services was first established in 2005. They now offer fully integrated care (primary care, behavioral health, dental) all under one roof and follow a strong no wrong door policy.

Talbot County’s Project Purple Campaign

In September Talbot went purple to take a stand against drug abuse. During that month there were 122 speaking engagements, 7,000 people spoken to, and 27 news paper articles written covering prevention, recovery and everything in between.

Harford County’s H.O.P.E. House

This mobile trailer of a mock bed and bathroom contains 50 hidden items of drugs and paraphernalia. Small groups of parents walk through trying to find the items and learning about signs to look for in the process. The trailer has been to 26 events since the ribbon was cut in September, including the 2017 the MACo Winter Conference.

OIT Swap and Share Spotlights Promising Practices from Across the State

Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) hosted an Opioid Intervention Team (OIT) Promising Practices Swap & Share providing an important platform for OIT teams from counties across the state to share best practices and lessons learned in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford delivering welcoming remarks at the OIT Promising Practices Swap & Share.
Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford delivering welcoming remarks at the OIT Promising Practices Swap & Share.

OIT teams are multi-agency bodies established in each county and led by the county’s emergency manager and health officer to coordinate local opioid response efforts and integrate with statewide efforts.

Welcoming remarks were provided by Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.

“It’s at the local level – in neighborhoods, in schools, in places of worship – where we all are making the biggest impact in fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic,” he said. “Individually, you are changing your communities, but by working together even more and by replicating what you learn today in your own neighborhoods, just think about how we can change our state and its future.”

The Lieutenant Governor’s remarks were followed by Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, Maryland Department of Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader, Maryland Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Russell J. Strickland, and Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Associate Director Natasha Mehu.

Clay Stamp, Executive Director of the OOCC, and Birch Barron, Deputy Director of the OOCC, served as M.C.’s for the day.

“Every day, we are making progress by eliminating stigma in our communities. We’re talking more so that those who need help can come forward and ask for it. We’re encouraging safe disposal of unused medications through drug takeback programs, and we’re seeing treatment expand,” said Clay Stamp, executive director, Opioid Operational Command Center. “While we have to acknowledge the devastating effects of this crisis, we cannot forget that we are seeing momentum build all across the state.”

Before delving into a jammed pack agenda of promising practices, attendees heard from Jillian Beach who shared her story as a family member impacted by the opioid crisis.

The presentations covered a broad range of practices from a diverse set of jurisdictions. Some highlighted programs that were spearheaded by public safety agencies and others by public health. But all harped on the importance of collaboration, information sharing, and bringing key partners together to achieve success and overcome challenges. Audience members left with much information they could take back to their jurisdictions.

The event was held Thursday, December 14, 2017 at the James N. Robey Public Safety Training Center in Howard County. MACo was a sponsors of the event.

For more information:

Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center Hosts Opioid Intervention Team Swap & Share (OOCC press release)

Before It’s Too Late  – Maryland’s statewide effort to bring awareness to the heroin and opioid crisis and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Eastern Shore Launches 24 Hour Substance Abuse Text Line

A new text line has launched allowing people to anonymously reach out for information about substance abuse treatment. The text line is pilot project from the Eastern Shore managed by Text 2 Stop It! and it operates 24 hours a day.

The Digital Journal reports:

The pilot project is the first of its kind and operates in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne and Talbot counties. Anyone can text IWIK to 71441 and within minutes will connect with a call center operator. Texters can ask questions and get information anonymously or provide contact information and have a treatment specialist follow-up for further help.

Funded through the Mid-Shore Opioid Misuse Prevention Program (OMPP) as part of its media campaign titled, ‘I Wish I Knew‘ (IWIK), the text line aims to reduce barriers to treatment and help people understand the treatment process.

Read the full article to learn more.

New Bay Goals May Include Projected Growth & Land Use Changes

Bay Journal article (2017-12-03) reported that the state-federal Bay Program is considering whether to incorporate 2025 growth projections for  both humans and farm animals into the pending water pollution goals of the third and final phase of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The new TMDL targets for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment will also take into account projected land use changes.

The article noted that the population within the Bay watershed is projected to grow to 19.4 million (an 11.5% increase from 2010) by 2025. From the agricultural side, farm animal populations (especially chickens) and cultivated cropland are also expected to increase. From the article:

Now, Bay Program participants have tentatively agreed on techniques to forecast county-level trends in population, land use and agriculture into the future. Those projections can be used to predict what the landscape will look like in 2025 — and the amount of nutrient reductions that will be needed to meet Bay cleanup goals under those conditions.

Any reductions needed to offset that growth can be assigned to each state next year when they develop new watershed implementation plans — or WIPs — which will guide cleanup efforts through the 2025 deadline. Those growth projections would then be updated every two years. …

It’s not yet clear exactly how much that will alter the estimates of nutrient reductions that are needed to meet cleanup goals. “We’re not talking about huge increases,” said Peter Claggett, a research geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey who has been working to develop the land use projections. “Probably a couple percent.”

The article explained, however, that the burden for growth would not be evenly spread and some regions in Maryland may have higher targets than others. For example, the Eastern Shore and parts of Pennsylvania would have to address pollution generated by growth in poultry production while the Interstate 95 and I-81 corridors would have to offset new growth replacing forested land.

In the article, Claggett advocated that the growth projections could help states and local governments make better long-term land use and water pollution decisions. However, Chesapeake Bay Senior Water Quality Scientist Beth McGee expressed concern that the growth projections could also become a self-fulfilling prophecy and shift the pollution reduction burden from developers to governments:

“Our issue with building the WIPs on the forecasts is you are sort of baking development growth into the process,” [McGee] said. “It is just a given that this new development is going to occur.” …

Instead of placing the burden of offsetting new pollution loads on developers, she said, it shifts the responsibility of planning for the impact of growth to state and local governments.

The article also discussed the opportunities to create incentives and educate the public on the importance of land and forest conservation. The issue about whether to use growth targets will be decided by a group of state and federal officials in December of 2017.



MACo’s Weekly County News & Notes… from Twitter

The social media site Twitter has become a fast-moving setting for news, information, and advocacy on public affairs. We welcome followers of MACo’s own Twitter feed for updates from the Conduit Street blog and other MACo hot topics, and often use Twitter to reach our own audience, and to hear from others following the same issues as county leaders.

Here are some Tweets that caught our eye from our 2017 Winter Conference:

Tweets from Maryland Counties this week:


‘Tis the Season for… Property Tax Assessments!

OC Today reported last week that Worcester County’s assessable base has grown from $14.8 billion to $15.2 billion, and is expected to grow to $15.4 billion by the beginning of fiscal 2019 –  meaning about 2 percent more tax revenue to the county.

Wait a minute. Isn’t it a bit early to receive these numbers? Last year, the State Department of Assessments & Taxation (SDAT) released information a few weeks later.

It is early. The article is based on preliminary numbers released annually around this time on SDAT’s website. But those numbers are subject to change. SDAT plans to issue its annual press release in a few weeks, after it has done a bit more due diligence.

Still, the County expects to see slow and steady growth. This year, Worcester’s assessment is limited to Ocean City. From the article:

[County Treasurer Phil] Thompson said the measured growth reached between 1.4-1.5 percent during the last year, and that’s what county residents should expect for the foreseeable future. During the peak boom years between 2004-2006, cumulative county property values exceeded $20 billion.

“We’re trending the way we were 10 years prior to the boom time of 2003-2006,” he said. …

Traditionally, [Ocean City] has been the major driver of property value assessments in the county. However, with the growth and development in West Ocean City, Thompson said the playing field might be leveling off.

“With Tanger Outlets coming to town and the recent hotel development there, we’re seeing steady growth,” he said.

Taxes are responsible for two-thirds of the county’s revenue, Thompson said.



Summer #MACoCon to Focus on Water Issues

MACo’s 2018 Summer Conference will focus on all the ways counties work with water.

Photo Courtesy of DHCD

From the health of the Bay and Maryland’s waterways to the infrastructure, treatment, and regulations that ensure safe and healthy water flows through our pipes, county governments are keeping our residents afloat. Conference sessions will discuss the Bay, water infrastructure, watermen and oyster/fishery/habitat issues, floods and other natural disasters, and ways to put the wind back in the sails of a tight budget.

Mark your calendars and join us on August 15-18, 2018 to discuss “Water, Water, Everywhere.”

The call for conference proposals will be issued in January and will close on April 13, 2018. Exhibitor and sponsor registration will begin in January. MACo’s Corporate Partners and 2017 Summer Conference sponsors and exhibitors will be given first choice of exhibit placement and sponsorship opportunities. For more information, contact Virginia White.