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2016 MACo Summer Conference: August 17-20, 2016 | Ocean City, MD
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Rising to the Surface in School Construction

As counties and the State’s 21st Century School Facilities Commission study school construction, a few topics emerge as focal points for change.

At this year’s MACo Conference, Chair of the 21st Century School Facilities Commission, Martin Knott, and MACo’s representative to the Commission, Jan Gardner shared insights into school constuction in a panel moderated by Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the Maryland House of Delegates.

This past year, MACo sought strong and smart funding for school construction as a top legislative initiative. MACo represented the interests of counties seeking to expand their school facility capacity for more students, and those in need of funding to update aging infrastructure. For 2017, counties received continued support for school construction in the State budget and are participating in discussions regarding how to make the most effective use of school construction funding.

maggie and martin modern
School construction is one of the most important issues facing the State, as described by Chairwoman McIntosh.

In the session titled, To Boldly Go. . . Toward Better Modern Schools, Delegate McIntosh introduced the subject and gave an overview of the two major statewide studies underway currently, the Study of Adequacy of Funding for Education in the State of Maryland and the 21st Century School Facilities Commission.

Chairman Knott then described the charge of the Commission, and shared feedback from the meetings the Commission has held so far. The Chairman announced that the Commission would continue beyond the date initially set-out for its final report this December, indicating that while the Commission will release a report at that time, there will be more work to be done.

Ideas that are rising to the top of discussion of the Commission, according to Chairman Knott, include:

  • Prototype designs for schools
  • The school construction timeline, including the points at which contractors are involved in the process
  • Value-engineering incentives
  • The State Department of General Services’ involvement with school construction

Knott emphasized his interest in county input into the Commission. As he said,

The rubber hits the road in the counties, at the local level.

County Executive Gardner spoke from the perspective of a county representative on the Commission and also shared information from the work of a Frederick County task force she has charged with reducing school construction costs.

jan modern
“School investment lifts all boats,” County Executive Jan Gardner stated in describing the effect of school construction on families, property values, and businesses.

Gardner began with some background – while the state and the counties have met the school construction investment goals set by the 2004 Kopp Commission on school construction, investments have fallen short of needs because of rising school construction costs.

Gardner shared a several ideas for reform of the school construction program that could create cost savings for counties. A few ideas include:

  • Revise prevailing wage regulations to reduce the paperwork and penalties that scare off small contractors from bidding on projects
  • Create a state standard for green building to reduce the costs and administrative burdens of complying with the LEED program
  • Develop incentives for innovative design and construction and value-engineering, such as allowing local boards of education to share in cost-savings that would otherwise only revert to the State.

Following the presentations, the audience asked questions regarding funding for systemic preventative maintenance, solving workforce shortages, and ways to tie school construction into new infrastructure development.

Both Knott and Gardner invited additional input into the work of the Commission from county governments. To provide suggestions to the Commission, contact Robin Clark at MACo.

The October 22 meeting of the Commission will focus on funding needs.

Local Officials Discuss Pros, Cons of Pokémon Go at #MACoCon

imgresThe opportunities and challenges that Pokémon Go presents to local governments inspired a spirited discussion at #MACoCon. The “Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Pokémon Go and the public” panel addressed the pros and cons of the megahit smartphone application.

Only one month after its launch, Pokémon Go is still creating a buzz across Maryland. Melissa Joseph Muntz, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for “Visit Frederick,” says more people have downloaded Pokémon Go than Google Maps. Muntz added that “millennial visitors are actually willing to change their travel plans based on where Pokémon Go is popular.”

Muntz spoke about how counties can utilize the game to boost tourism. “It’s encouraging people to get outside, to visit historic sites that they’ve never seen before.” Mike Riley, Director M-NCPPC – Montgomery Parks, said county parks have seen an uptick in foot traffic, but that many Pokémon Go players seem more interested in catching digital monsters than taking in their surroundings.

Riley added, “The kids are getting outside. They are exercising. They are socializing. So now that we have the kids out there, we are focused on how to make sure their eyes are open to the other opportunities they can benefit from visiting the parks.”

Major Kenneth Calvert of the University of Maryland Police Department talked about the challenges the game presents to law enforcement and public safety. According to Major Calvert, “What happens to people when they play the game is that they lose situational awareness. They become prey for these people who are looking for fast cash, and an iPhone is a fast cash these days, so that’s the challenge for us.” Major Calvert advised players to travel in groups and remain aware of their surroundings at all times.

The session was moderated by Talbot County Councilwoman Laura Price.

The 2016 MACo Summer Conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”

2016 #MACoCon Panel Tackles the Mental Illness Crisis in Jails

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Mentally Ill & Incarcerated Panel
From L to R: Kathryn Farinholt, Terry Kokolis, Delegate Erek Barron, and Francesca Berger

Attendees to the 2016 MACo Summer Conference confronted the crisis of the mentally ill in jails during the “Mentally Ill and Incarcerated: A Criminal Justice Crisis” panel on August 19.

Anne Arundel County Department of Detention Facilities Superintendent Terry Kokolis outlined the severity and challenges represented by incarcerating the mentally ill. He stated that the mentally ill are overrepresented in corrections population nationwide and often have concurrent substance abuse issues. Kokolis also discussed the liability associated with the jailed mentally ill, including increased chances of suicide and abuse by fellow inmates. He noted that some local jails are unable to have a psychiatrist onsite and have relay on tele-psychiatry – a less than ideal solution.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maryland Executive Director Kathryn Farinholt explained the demographics of the mentally ill in the prison population, noting that 24% of inmates have a serious mental illness nationwide. She stated that jails are typically the largest mental health facility in a county. She also stressed the cost savings to jails – both in jail bed space and stress and injury to corrections officials – by removing the mentally ill from the jail setting.

Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) Director of Advocacy Francesca Berger explained ways to intervene before the mentally ill enters the law enforcement system and jail. She noted that while people used to be treated in state psychiatric facilities, they are now dispersed through jails, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and other facilities because community treatment options never materialized. She cited a TAC report that found 4 million adults have an untreated severe mental illness and that such individuals are 16 times more likely to be killed when stopped or approached by law enforcement. Berger stress the need for better officer training and pre-crisis diversion through assisted outpatient treatment programs (AOTs). She stated that Maryland and Connecticut are the only two states without at least a pilot AOT or a reasonable alternative.

Maryland Delegate Erek Barron moderated the panel. Siemen’s Industry, Inc. sponsored the panel.

Drones Fly at #MACoCon

The new Tech Expo at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference began with a session and demonstration on drones on August 17. In “Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! No – It’s a Drone!” county officials heard from several Aviation Systems Engineering (ASEC) personnel on the benefits, challenges, and possible county applicable uses of drones over a boxed lunch.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Kavon on Drone Panel
Brent Kavon discusses the macro benefits of drones

ASEC Director of Commercial UAS (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) Brent Kavon discussed: (1) the new Federal Aviation Administration requirements for drones that will take effect August 29; (2) Maryland’s drone laws; (3) drone technology, sensor, and operational considerations; and (4) how to start up a drone program. Kavon stressed that drones can assist in project review, building and bridge inspection, public and fire safety, tourism promotion, geographic information system (GIS) mapping, and ecological monitoring (habitat health, algae blooms, invasive species tracking, etc.).

As a demonstration, ASEC Business Development Manager Bryan Barthelme briefly flew a drone with a camera that captured the audience and streamed it live to Youtube.

The session was moderated by St. Mary’s County Commissioner John O’Connor.

Post Questions Tax Exemption For Universities

The Washington Post Editorial Board published “Universities shouldn’t be exempt from D.C. property taxes” last week, questioning the long-standing given that institutions of higher education enjoy exemption from (most) state, local and federal taxes. Opines The Post: 

The rationale for this long-standing policy is a wise one: namely, that these institutions seek to serve broad public needs, not provide a return on shareholder investment.

Yet, in modern times, that argument runs into the blunt fact that some institutions of higher education have morphed into economically impactful entities employing thousands of people, occupying hundreds of acres and investing endowments that sometimes surpass $1 billion[.]

Naturally, higher education institutions in the D.C. area have long fought (successfully) against proposals to assess them a local property tax. They argue that the schools provide substantial public services, such as generating economic activity, providing security, and running shuttle buses for students.  The Post responds:

As for the stimulus universities provide for the local economy, and the services they provide students, both are fair points — but it’s equally true that the universities’ ability to attract students in the first place depends in some measure on the city’s infrastructure and amenities, paid for by local households and businesses.

Tax-exempt properties accounted for 11% of the total assessable property tax base in Maryland as of January 2014 – and as much as 31.6% in Baltimore City. For more information about property tax exemptions in Maryland, see the Department of Legislative Services’ presentation, Property Tax Exemptions and Payments in Lieu of Taxes in Maryland.

Congressman Van Hollen, Attorney General Frosh Address Diversity Caucus at #MACoCon

The Maryland County Officials Diversity Caucus heard from United States Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference on August 18.

In his opening statements, Howard County Council Member Calvin Ball stressed how much the caucus has grown over the last several years. Former Maryland Delegate Melony Griffith then provided an update on a pledge card effort for supporting local health centers or initiatives. Griffith noted that almost everyone filled out a pledge card last session and several signees described their successful efforts. Prince George’s County Council Member Mel Franklin highlighted the legislative initiatives of the caucus: (1) economic development; (2) job creation; (3) minority business participation; (4) criminal justice reform; and (5) environmental justice and social justice issues.

Van Hollen urged the caucus to continue in its direction and work, stating, “I believe firmly that we have to break down the barriers between local governments, state governments, and the federal government.” He argued that constituents typically do not make or care about such distinctions. Van Hollen also recognized the “strength that diversity brings” to the state, noting the creation of the Harriet Tubman state park in Dorchester County.

2016 MACo Summer Conference - Diversity Caucus
Brian Frosh Addressing the Diversity Caucus

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh also addressed the caucus. Frosh stressed that cooperation was essential in producing positive outcomes and highlighted a successful multi-law enforcement agency effort to shut down human trafficking ring that was operating in Prince George’s County and elsewhere. He The enforcement action included multiple law enforcement agencies. Frosh also provided an overview of actions his office has recently taken against debt collection agencies, payday lenders, buyers of structured settlements, and illegal moving company practices. Noting the recent United States Department of Justice findings against the Baltimore City Police Department, he urged all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt his office’s guidelines on officer conduct.


Thursday Webinar: Take Control Of Your County Investments


MBS endorsement image

Introducing the Public Funds Investor Guide, a free online resource for treasurers and financial officers of all experience levels to help fulfill their investment responsibilities. The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) and Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. (MBS) will present a special, free webinar to unveil this new educational guide and review new features of eConnectDirect®, including a new online investment policy tool that can help make your investing decisions easier and more efficient. MACo members and any other Maryland local government investment officers who have previously attended an eConnectDirect webinar are urged to attend.

MACo is pleased to have endorsed eConnectDirect as an essential online investment solution designed to help Maryland county treasurers manage their investment needs. This proprietary platform, developed by MBS, provides treasurers access to thousands of fixed-income offerings and the ability to invest county funds in a more effective and transparent way.

MBS has enhanced this offering with its Multi-Bank Securities Institute, Public Funds Investor Guide and new features that will help you keep your portfolio in compliance with statutes and policies. We are delighted to host this 30-minute session to demonstrate how this unique resource can help you maximize your investment portfolio at no cost.*


Who should attend the webinar to learn more about this free tool? This webinar is open to any local government Treasurers and Officers with investment responsibility including:

Finance Directors
Investment Officers
Deputy Treasurers & Staff
Investment Committee Members

Click the date below to register!

Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. EDT

For a link to MACo’s endorsement of eConnectDirect, click here.


About MBS
MBS is an independent, fixed-income securities broker-dealer that has been serving institutional investors across the U.S. for more than 28 years. The company’s customers include counties, municipalities, credit unions, banks, money managers and other institutional investors. MBS also underwrites U.S. agency bonds and distributes FDIC-insured CDs for thousands of community and national banks. Member of FINRA & SIPC; MSRB Registered.
*There may be costs associated with other products/services offered by MBS.

What’s In The BAT Repeal Regulations?

As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Lawrence (Larry) Hogan announced at the 2016 MACo Summer Conference that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) would be proposing regulations to repeal the requirement that new or expanded capacity septic systems located outside of a Critical Area use best available nitrogen removal technology (BAT). MDE has released a copy of the proposed regulations and an explanation sheet on MDE’s broader approach to septic systems (links to both below).

Previously, MACo has raised concerns about the “one size fits all” approach, questionable nitrogen reductions, and increasing in affordable housing costs that accompanied the outside the Critical Area BAT requirement. The BAT issue was one of the key concerns MACo raised in its comments to the Regulatory Reform Commission in 2015.

BAT Regulation Reform

The proposed regulations will include the following changes:

  • Repeal: Repeal the mandatory use of BAT or equivalent systems outside of a Critical Area except for newly constructed large septic systems with a design flow of 5,000 gallons per day or greater
  • Local Flexibility: Authorize a local government to enact BAT requirements outside of a Critical Area in order to protect public health or the waters of the State
  • Critical Area BAT Requirement: Incorporate the current statutory requirement for BAT systems within a Critical Area for new construction or replacement systems into the regulations
  • Definition of New Construction: Specify the definition of “new construction” does not include the renovation or repair of an existing residence
  • Maintenance Contract & Warranty: Require all new BAT systems (inside or outside of a Critical Area) to include a two year operation and maintenance contract and a two year warranty, effective from the date of initial installation
  • BAT Maintenance: Clarify that if a property owner with a BAT systems choses to have an approved management entity operate and maintain the system, the management entity must do both (all other existing maintenance and service provider requirements are retained)
  • Stylistic Changes: Make several stylistic or non-substantive changes to wording, grammar, or terminology

MDE Septic System Strategy

However, the BAT regulation reform is only part of a broader 3-pronged effort that MDE is undertaking regarding septic systems. From MDE’s explanation sheet:

This BAT septic system regulatory reform is one part of the Department’s broader effort to meet clean water goals in the most effective, efficient, and equitable ways. The broader effort includes:

Reforming the BAT regulations – as described above.

Re-tooling inspection and enforcement efforts. The Department is committing to enhance compliance assistance and enforcement efforts with an emphasis on failing septic systems statewide.

Re-thinking the septics vs. sewer decisions. In many cases counties and communities are seeking financial, legal, and regulatory assistance to help connect failing septic systems to public sewer. MDE and the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) will participate in a workshop for local governments and other interested parties in the coming months on opportunities for septic to sewer projects, including financial and technical assistance the Departments can offer for such efforts.

MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles: “We are fully committed to clean water progress and meeting Chesapeake Bay goals and requirements. This is a measured step to reduce regulatory burden and build public support for a smarter and more effective septics program across the state. We are customizing the statewide requirement to meet local watershed needs more effectively while still insisting on excellent environmental results. Innovation and collaboration at the local level, rather than locking into one particular technology, will lead to more success in protecting and sustaining Maryland’s precious environment. We will work hard to make sure it happens through regulatory reform, education, compliance assistance and enforcement.”

The proposed regulations will be published in an upcoming issue of the Maryland Register and be subject to a 30 day public comment period from the date of publication.

Useful Links

MDE 2016 Proposed BAT Septic Regulations

MDE Handout Explaining Proposed BAT Regulations & General Septic System Strategy

Conduit Street Coverage of Governor Hogan’s BAT Announcement

Conduit Street Coverage on MACo Letter to Regulatory Reform Commission

Prior Conduit Street BAT Septic Coverage



Belton and Grumbles Engage Counties in Open Forum

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton and Department of Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles discussed policy and answered questions at an open forum with attendees at the MACo Summer Conference.

DNR and MDE Secretaries gave brief remarks then opened themselves to questions from a full and eager audience.
DNR and MDE Secretaries gave brief remarks then opened themselves to questions from a full and eager audience.

Secretary Belton briefly provided updates on Program Open Space, DNR’s Chesapeake Bay related programs, the Oyster Advisory Committee, and clean up efforts of the Patapsco River stemming from the recent storm that devastated parts of Ellicott City.

Secretary Grumbles briefly highlighted MDE’s Chesapeake Bay related efforts, continued challenges and work related to storm water remediation, and a desire to work closely with local governments on restoration projects across the state.

The dynamic duo then yielded the remaining time to answer questions from the audience which ranged from forest conservation to TMDL recalibration and green infrastructure.

The Open Forum with DNR and MDE was moderated by Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti, a former Harford County Council Member that has worked with MACo on environmental issues both as a MACo member and as a state legislator.

The 2016 MACo summer conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”


Health Officers Share Strategies for Confronting Substance Abuse

A panel of county health officers presented on successful programs and new county efforts to combat substance abuse.

L to R: Anne Arundel COunty Executive Steve Schuh, Lori Brewster, Pam Creekmur, Larry Polsky and Rebecca Hogameir.
L to R: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Lori Brewster, Pam Creekmur, Larry Polsky and Rebecca Hogamier.

Pamela Creekmur, the health officer for Prince George’s County, started off by giving audience members the latest overview on substance abuse across the state. The grim reality is that despite increased efforts to curb the addiction crisis, overdose deaths continue to rise.

Somerset County Health Officer Lori Brewster presented the county’s pilot Community Outreach for Addictions Treatment (COAT) program. Through COAT, peer support specialist partner with law enforcement to reach out to at risk individuals. The pilot, a multidisciplinary effort, helps bridge a gap between overdoses and the need to get people into treatment. The pilot has been in place for 5 weeks and has resulted in 47 contacts with 16 people linked to treatment through the program.

Calvert County Health Officer Larry Polsky discussed the county’s programs to reach the special needs populations of pregnant women and children. The Healthy Beginnings Infant Morbidity and Mortality Reduction project is a multidisciplinary approach to providing pregnant and postnatal women and babies with substance abuse treatment coupled with comprehensive women’s health services. Conservative estimates of total savings from the program between the prevention of unintended pregnancies and reductions from babies born with substance abuse related complications is $4.6 million. Dr. Polsky also presented on the county’s school based behavioral health services, which operates in two middle schools and one high school. The program has served 116 students and they hope to expand to all middle and high schools in the county in three years.

Rebecca Hogamier, Washington County’s Behavioral Health Director, concluded the panel with a presentation on their medication assisted treatment program in their jail using extended release Naltrexone (Vivitrol). The program’s goals are to reduce recidivism and overdoses and to increase engagement and retention in community-based behavioral health programs. She also presented on Washington County’s recent grants to launch the state’s first day reporting center. The center will operate as an alternative to incarceration and provide individuals with treatment and reentry support services. Ms. Hogameir announced she would be retiring from the health department and will continue to serve the county as the director of the day reporting center.

The session was moderated by Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh who shared some remarks about his administration’s work on substance abuse and the accolades Anne Arundel County has received for their programs on local and national levels.

The 2016 MACo summer conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”