#MACoCon Panel Showcases Successful County Collaborations

At the 2017 MACo Winter Conference general session “We’ve Got Your Back: Counties Collaborate” attendees learned about how counties are leveraging intergovernmental and private sector partnerships to achieve the best results for county residents.

The panelists discussed a range of challenges counties grapple with — responding to natural disasters, ensuring public safety, maximizing purchasing power and investments — and the ways counties can use partnerships to overcome those challenges.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman
Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman kicked off the panel with a presentation on the recovery efforts after the 2016 Ellicott City flood. He noted that neighboring counties, state agencies, and responders from across the country were crucial in the successful response and recovery to the flood. Partners sent people to help with operational support, including an Incident Management Team from Pennsylvania as Maryland did not have such a team. They also sent equipment such as VAT trucks from Anne Arundel County, SHA trucks, and a helicopter. County Executive Kittleman stressed the importance of a united front while working together and of patience throughout the long-term process of recovery. He concluded sharing that 96% percent of business are back up and running 16 months after the flood — exceeding SBA’s estimate that only 20-30% of businesses would return.

Jim Alfree, Assistant Chief in Queen Anne’s County’s Department of Emergency Services presented on a 911 call overflow partnership between Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne’s, and Kent counties. Prior to the partnership if you called 911 and the line was busy, you would get a busy signal until the line opened. He likened it to “playing Russian Roulette until you can get through to 911”. To fix this they developed a call flow. When one county 911 center is being inundated by calls, instead of receiving a busy signal the call will be sent to one of the neighboring county call centers. The counties developed a PSA and their public information officers helped with the campaign to get the message out.

Debbie Groat, Regional Purchasing Coordinator for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council presented on the benefits of aggregating county purchases to generate better prices and better services. Generally the greater the volume of purchases the greater the benefits. She noted that 60% of contracts that counties use are the same and that cooperative purchasing can save counties 3-15%. Groat explained the Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee’s lead buyer model which helps member counties piggy back on lead buyers contract. And how the committee provides a platform for sharing information on standard cooperative language and best practices that counties can use.

From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason
From left to right: County Executive Kittleman, Jim Alfree, Debbie Groat, Chris Dellinger, Joseph Mason

Chris Dellinger, Public Sector Solutions Energy & Sustainability Services for Schneider Electric, spoke about a public-private-partnership between Schneider Electric and Montgomery County to develop a microgrid to protect critical departments in the face of environmental disasters power outages. This partnership arose from a snow storm that hit Montgomery County and significantly knocked out power across the jurisdiction. The microgrids help ensure the county can continue to provide critical services in the face of such storms. The microgrid can power important systems and maintain functionality of a building while the electric grid is down and being worked on. Currently the Montgomery County Correctional Facility and Public Safety Headquarters now have microgrids.

Last but not least, Joseph Mason, Senior Vice President for Davenport & Company gave an overview of the MACo Pooled OPEB Investment Trust Fund. The OPEB trust helps local governments invest current funds toward future obligations for retiree health insurance. By pooling money together counties can reduce overhead and legal costs, as well as gain access to better investments.

This session was moderated by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and held on Thursday, December 7. The MACo Winter Conference was held December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “The Power of Partnership.”