Baltimore City Announces Mayor’s Scholars Program

On Wednesday, December 13th Baltimore City Mayor Catherine E. Pugh joined Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) President and CEO Dr. Gordon F. May and Baltimore City Public Schools’ CEO Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises to launch the Mayor’s Scholars Program. In August, Mayor Pugh announced free tuition at Baltimore City Community College for all 2018 seniors graduating from public schools.

According to a press release,

The Mayor’s Scholars Program is established on the basis of providing more accessible higher education. When cost barriers are eliminated, youth are more likely to pursue and obtain a degree and achieve meaningful, competitive employment. This, in turn, leads to greater economic opportunity, which ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty and violence.

“Every student should know that cost does not have to be a barrier when they choose better for themselves, and it starts with coordination among public schools and anchor institutions to make college and financial aid accessible, once and for all,” said Mayor Pugh.

The Mayor’s Scholars Program covers tuition for Associate’s Degree and Certified Job Training Programs, giving Baltimore City graduating seniors a clear path to success.

Read the full press release for more information.

Charles Earns National Budget Award

The Charles Charles County Commissioners recently recognized the Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services for earning a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for the 22nd consecutive year. This award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental budgeting and represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

Pictured, left to right: David Eicholtz and Jenifer Ellin, Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services; Commissioner Vice President Amanda M. Stewart, M.Ed. (District 3); TaTanya Bowman, Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services; Commissioner President Peter F. Murphy; Samantha Chiriaco, Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services; Commissioner Bobby Rucci (District 4); Jacob Dyer, Department of Fiscal and Administrative Services; Commissioner Debra M. Davis, Esq. (District 2); and Commissioner Ken Robinson (District 2). Courtest of Charles County.

The GFOA, founded in 1906, represents public finance officials throughout the United States and Canada. The association’’s more than 19,000 members are federal, state/provincial, and local finance officials deeply involved in planning, financing, and implementing thousands of governmental operations in each of their jurisdictions.

Read the Charles County press release for more information.

Washington County Prepares for Next Generation 9-1-1

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) issues are of top concern for county governments officials seeking to improve and enhance their handling of emergency calls from cell phone users.

NG911 will enable the public to make voice, text, or video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks. Linked call centers will also be able to share resources like GIS (Geographic Information System) databases rather than each having to purchase their own. These capabilities can make public safety both more effective and more responsive.

While the technology to implement NG911 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through, including uniform specifications, the process of transition, governance, and funding. In Washington County, local government officials are in the process of updating addresses and reviewing geographic boundaries, all in an effort to prepare for NG911.

According to Herald-Mail Media,

Local planning is part of a nationwide effort to bring 911 up to the “next level of technology,” said Bud Gudmundson, the county’s GIS manager.

GIS coordinates will provide more accurate location information, including vertical coordinates. Location information won’t have to be tied to an actual address. That will help dispatchers identify locations whether someone is on the side of a road or in a field, which will help with search-and-rescue efforts, Fischer said.

Local officials are wrestling with the problem of the boundary between Washington and Frederick counties for a few reasons.

The boundary line is along South Mountain and hasn’t been surveyed since 1824, Gudmundson said. There are few, if any, markers along the line showing that boundary.

Another issue: Some addresses will need to be corrected.

The county’s planning department is the addressing authority for unincorporated areas in the county. Hagerstown handles its addressing and the smaller towns handle theirs.

Hagerstown has been good about checking with the county about addresses and Gudmondson said he doesn’t foresee the county taking over what the city is doing.

However, the county is going to ask the smaller towns if the county can take over addressing authority for them, for the “sake of consistency and accuracy.”

MACo has adopted advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 systems as one of four 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems

Maryland citizens 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. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Click here to learn more about MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives.

County Leaders Focus on School Funding at #MACoCon

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference roundtable discussion “The Next Round of School Funding Debates,” attendees heard the latest updates on the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, which is charged with making policy and funding recommendations for Maryland’s public education system.

Montgomery County Councilmember, Craig Rice

Montgomery County Councilmember, Craig Rice and Allegany County Commissioner, William Valentine, MACo’s representatives on the Commission, led the discussion.

Allegany County Commissioner, William Valentine

Commissioner Valentine and Councilmember Rice emphasized MACo’s position that any recommendations made by the Commission be fair and equitable to all twenty-four jurisdictions, and that no recommendations result in a “winners and losers” situation for Maryland counties.

Valentine and Rice also confirmed that the Commission would not have time to reach a final set of recommendations by December. This derails widely held expectations that its recommendations, translated into proposed legislation, would become a major centerpiece of the 2018 session of the General Assembly.

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

Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services: A Collaborative Approach

All of Maryland’s twenty-four jurisdictions depend on some level of volunteers for the delivery of fire and rescue service. As volunteer fire companies continue to evolve, it is critical for local governments to strengthen their relationships with local volunteer firefighters.

From Left to Right: Commissioner Levengood, Chip Jewell, Michael Faust, Tom Owens, Richard DeVore

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Together We Respond: A Collaborative Approach to Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services” attendees learned how Maryland counties are collaborating with volunteer fire companies to protect lives, property, and the environment.

Clarence “Chip” Jewell, Director/Deputy Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Maryland. Mr. Jewell also provided data on the cost savings for jurisdictions that are able to hire volunteer firefighters.

Michael Faust, Second Vice President, Maryland State Firemen’s Association, discussed the fire service from a state perspective, including some of the opportunities and challenges related to firefighters in Maryland. Mr. Faust also highlighted grant opportunities for the recruitment and retention of firefighters.

Richard Devore, Director, Emergency Services, Allegany County, discussed the evolution of the fire service in Allegany County. He also described some of the challenges and obstacles counties face when recruiting firefighters. Mr. Devore also talked about how Allegany County has recently started the process of evolving into combination service. Finally, he discussed challenges unique to rural jurisdictions in Maryland.

Tom Owens, EFO, Director/Chief, Frederick County Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services, described the steps counties need to take in order to evolve from volunteer staffing to combination staffing. Chief Owens focused on the keys for making the transition in a way that forms a partnership, and the importance of assuaging potential concerns over what some could see as a potential coup.

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

Broadband Throughout the Land at #MACoCon

In today’s world, internet connectivity is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity. Broadband is critical to the future of our economy, education, and safety. Many Marylanders have either limited or no access to broadband, creating a gap in the ability of some communities to participate in the global economy. In order to address the service gap, counties are employing new and innovative solutions.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County

During the 2017 MACo Winter Conference panel “Broadband Throughout the Land” attendees learned about the challenges and best practices associated with expanding broadband access in Maryland.

Mark E. Ripper, Director, Dept. of Technology Services, Carroll County, discussed broadband in Carroll County, including dark fiber networks, client bases, and relationships with providers and customers. Mr. Ripper also discussed best practices for counties looking to set up contracts for broadband service.

James D. McCormick Jr., CIO, Caroline County, talked about broadband from a rural perspective, including the lack of access to existing infrastructure. Mr. McCormick also described the different options for delivering broadband service, such as aerial, boring, and conduit.

Victor Tervala, Chief Solicitor, General Counsel Division, Law Dept., Baltimore City discussed some of the challenges of expanding broadband access in Baltimore City. Mr. Tervala also talked about potential issues counties could face regarding deregulation for broadband providers.

The session was moderated by Delegate Johnny Mautz and was held on Wednesday, December 6. The MACo Winter Conference was December 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Partnership.”

Op-Ed Urges Kirwan Commission to Consider Race in Education Recommendations

Advocates call on Kirwan Commission to consider policy recommendations informed by race

An opinion piece in The Baltimore Sun advocates for the Kirwan Commission (formally the Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Education) to craft policy recommendations that are informed by race. The co-authors of the op-ed, Erika Seth Davies and Laura Gamble, lament that the Commission has failed to address the role of race in educational outcomes, stating,

There is no mention of race in the building blocks — no mention of known racial disparities in educational outcomes; of the negative impact that decades-long, persistent federal, state and local discriminatory policies and modern-day de facto segregation have had on performance outcomes for the U.S. when comparing our educational system to other nations’.

We call on the commission to embrace the role that it can and should play in erasing race-based disparities in educational outcomes and the allocation of resources so that race can no longer be a predictor of student achievement and success. Only then can we truly hope for change in outcomes for all students.

For more information, see the full opinion piece in The Baltimore SunMd. Kirwan Commission must consider race in education recommendations and previous Conduit Street coverage of the Kirwan Commission.

Six Maryland Public Schools Earn State Blue Ribbons

Six Maryland public schools have been selected as 2017-18 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools. All six were selected as an Exemplary High Performing School, one of the U.S. Department of Education’s two categories. The schools are being honored before the Maryland State Board of Education.

According to a press release:

The schools are:

  • West Towson Elementary School, Baltimore County
  • Urbana Elementary School, Frederick County
  • Fallston Middle School, Harford County
  • Waterloo Elementary School, Howard County
  • Bannockburn Elementary School, Montgomery County
  • Luxmanor Elementary School, Montgomery County

“Each one of these schools is laser-focused on student success, and the results speak for themselves,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools. “Creative teachers work with engaged and dedicated administrators, parents and the community to develop strong learning environments for their students. We will be proud to nominate these schools for National Blue Ribbon honors.”

The schools will be invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply to be National Blue Ribbon Schools. With underwriting and gift sponsors, each school will receive a Maryland Blue Ribbon Flag, a monetary prize, $1000 in office supplies, interactive technology equipment, and a school Congratulations Party. A dinner in Annapolis will be held in honor of the winning schools on March 12, 2018. On that date, each Blue Ribbon School will be honored by the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate.

Read the full press release for more information.

Conduit Street Podcast, Episode #6 – Solar, Solar… Everywhere?

Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires that renewable sources generate specified percentages of Maryland’s electricity supply each year, increasing to 25% by 2020, including 2.5% from solar energy.

On the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast, Kevin Kinnally and Les Knapp discuss the relationship between Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and local governments.

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

Listen here:

Anne Arundel Wins National Award for Public Utility Management

The 2017 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence recognizes Anne Arundel’s ten-year program to end reliance on Baltimore for drinking water.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works (DPW), Bureau of Utility Operations (BUO) is one of only fourteen public drinking water systems in the United States to be awarded a top utility management award from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA). The 2017 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence recognizes the County’s ten-year capital improvement program to end reliance on the City of Baltimore for 25 percent of the county’s drinking water supply.

According to a press release:

The coordinated efforts of the Bureau of Utilities and Bureau of Engineering enabled the County to complete vital capital projects within the strategic plan providing the infrastructure needed to produce enough water to serve areas of the County previously served by the City of Baltimore.  These capital projects were completed in September of 2017 and enabled the County to become an independent and self sufficient water system.  These efforts have saved the County $8.5 million over the last 10 years and will result in an annual savings of $1.5 million.

“We are proud of this award and all the members of our DPW team for their great work,” said County Executive Steve Schuh. “These efforts will ensure the sustainability of our system, reduce operating costs, and control the quality of water the citizens of Anne Arundel County receive for decades to come.”

“Our 2017 management award winners are a credit to their communities, and we salute their formidable accomplishments,” said AMWA President Scott Potter.

Read the full press release for more information.