Maryland Board of Public Works – March 22, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in the Governor’s Reception Room (2nd floor) of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

Maryland Board of Public Works – March 8, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting and bond sale will be held in the Assembly Room of the Treasury Building, 80 Calvert Street in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

Maryland Board of Public Works – February 22, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

Board Approves Hiring of Maryland School Construction Chief

The Board of Public Works unanimously approved Robert Gorrell on Wednesday to head Maryland’s school construction program.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun,

Gorrell, who has led New Mexico’s school construction efforts, was recruited to head the Interagency Committee on School Construction after a nationwide search. State schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon, who chairs the five-member committee, said Gorrell was the panel’s unanimous choice.

The committee oversees the state’s distribution of school construction money — which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars each year — to Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

Gorrell’s predecessor, David Lever, was a target of Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot last year after he was caught in the middle of a dispute over the pace of installing air conditioning in Baltimore and Baltimore County schools.

Lever, who had held the job since 2003, resigned in protest last May over the board’s decisions overruling local school systems and its members’ treatment of local school superintendents. Hogan said at the time that he welcomed his departure.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage on School Construction

Baltimore Sun Article

Maryland Board of Public Works – February 8, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

State Restores School Construction Money for Baltimore City, Baltimore County

The state’s Board of Public Works reinstated $10 million of school construction money for Baltimore City and Baltimore County Wednesday, after the school districts presented plans to install air conditioning in overheated classrooms.

The decision came as the board, which includes Governor Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, held its annual “begathon,” in which superintendents from around the state are summoned to Annapolis to discuss their requests for school construction money.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

The city plans to cool all of its schools within five years, and the county has plans to install air conditioning within four years.

“We really appreciate the effort,” Gov. Larry Hogan told city schools CEO Sonja Santelises.

But Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot were less enthusiastic about Baltimore County’s plans.

“I have some healthy skepticism … I think the jury is still out,” Franchot told county schools Superintendent Dallas Dance.

The total state budget for school construction is $334 million. The board was discussing the first 75 percent of that amount — $213 million. The requests are for the budget year that begins July 1.

School superintendents were called before the board in alphabetical order to pitch their plans and answer questions, a process expected to last well into the afternoon.

In the current budget year, the board withheld $5 million from the city and $10 million from the county over the lack of air conditioning in schools.

After the meeting, Santelises said she was pleased to receive the $5 million that had been withheld.

“The real win is for the city, and that we now have an example of what it means to come together around something,” she said.

Santelises said the school system will need to figure out which projects to spend the money on.

“The release of this $5 million will allow us to get some vital infrastructure projects done,” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

Baltimore County, likewise, will need to evaluate how to spend the money that is being released, Dance said. He said he plans to return to the Board of Public Works to offer more details on how the final 13 schools will get air conditioning, in hopes of getting the rest of the money that was withheld.

“We’re excited to get the $5 million back but as I shared with the governor, I hope we can add $5 million to that very soon,” he said.

While money was restored for Baltimore city and Baltimore County, the board withheld from Howard County $9.6 million of next year’s school construction money.

Hogan said he was not satisfied with Howard Superintendent Renee Foose’s answers to questions about how a mold problem at one of the county’s schools has been handled.

Hogan indicated the money could be restored after the board reviews a report on the issue that’s forthcoming and “we can really assess what’s going on with the mold issue.”

Useful Links

Baltimore Sun Article

Previous Conduit Street Coverage of the “Begathon”

Maryland Board of Public Works – January 25, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

Gov. Hogan Defies Legislature, Sets Date for Annual “Begathon”

Defying the General Assembly, Governor Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he will continue to require local school superintendents to take part in the Annapolis ritual known as the Begathon.

The annual event compels the leaders of Maryland’s 24 local school districts to appear before the Board of Public Works to justify the money they are seeking from the state.  Last year, the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM) sent a letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch about concerns with the Board of Public Works school appeal process.

The legislature then sought to change the process, which has long been the subject of complaints.

Hogan strongly objected. With the support of Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot, but over the objections of Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, he directed the board’s secretary to summon the leaders of Maryland’s school districts to Annapolis for the body’s Jan. 25 meeting.

That is the date of this year’s Begathon, where the board has traditionally spent a full day hearing appeals of decisions made by the Interagency Committee on School Construction about how it has allocated state funds.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Hogan attacked the legislature’s decision to insert a provision in the capital budget bill last year eliminating the requirement that superintendents appear before the board to answer questions.

The governor pointed to an opinion by the board’s counsel saying it may continue to seek information from superintendents. The opinion said the legislature curbed school systems’ right to appeal decisions by the committee but not the board’s power to oversee the program.

“Anyone who thinks they can just take away that authority on a whim is gravely mistaken,” Hogan said.

The Republican governor’s criticism of the Democrat-controlled Assembly brought an unusually vehement response from Kopp, a Democrat. The usually deferential and soft-spoken treasurer, who is elected by the General Assembly, said lawmakers had good reasons for their decision.

Hogan tried to interject, but Kopp insisted: “Sir, it’s my time.”

“In the last year or two years, what had been a set of very useful and informative hearings have turned into a political barrage of bullying and not one of inquiry,” said Kopp, calling the process unnecessary and “politically destructive.”

The governor retorted that “what you call bullying is what we would call fiscal responsibility and accessibility.” Hogan said the budget provision amounted to “misguided political shenanigans” sneaked into the bill in the “middle of the night.”

“The Board of Public Works is not going to be a rubber stamp of approval,” Hogan said.

However, Kopp said the legislature passed the capital budget bill in the open, with votes on the House and Senate floors.

“It’s not a secret,” she said.

The Assembly’s decision to try to end the Begathon was prompted in part by last year’s event. Some influential lawmakers heard complaints that superintendents were treated in a demeaning manner by Hogan and Franchot, who contended they were doing their job by asking hard questions.

One of the topics at last year’s Begathon was air conditioning in public schools in Baltimore city and county. Both jurisdictions are in the process of converting their schools to central air conditioning, but Hogan and Franchot pressed to use portable units to cool classrooms while that effort continues.

After the jurisdictions rejected that suggestion as too costly, the board voted in May to withhold $10 million from county schools and $5 million from those in the city.

Kopp said it’s time to restore that money so the city and county can use it for “maintenance and the purposes they are intended for.”

A former delegate, Kopp has been re-elected repeatedly by lawmakers. However, some Democrats have grumbled that she has not been sufficiently aggressive in confronting Hogan.

Her comments Wednesday won praise from legislative leaders.

“I’m glad to see Kopp getting into it,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch. “I’m glad she stood up for the public school construction program.”

MACo has adopted strong and effective state funding of school construction as a legislative priority for 2017.

Useful Links

Baltimore Sun Article

Previous Conduit Street Coverage

Maryland Board of Public Works – January 4, 2017 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.

Maryland Board of Public Works – December 21, 2016 Agenda

Maryland’s Board of Public Works reviews projects, contracts, and expenditure plans for state agencies – many of which have effect on county governments. It meets on alternating Wednesdays and the meetings are open to the public.  The meeting will be held in Governor’s Reception Room on the 2nd floor of the State House in Annapolis.

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 10 a.m. Material for the upcoming meeting is available online:

For “frequently asked questions” about the Board’s charge and meetings, visit the Board’s website.