House Subcommittee Increases Authorization For Local Water Programs

Additional funds for water infrastructure may flow down to counties from Congress, reports Route Fifty. Last week the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee voted to reauthorize funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program, at a level of $8 billion for the five-year period between fiscal years 2018 and 2022 – significantly higher than previous authorizations. The bill is the result of bipartisan compromise, according to U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko of New York, the top Democrat on the subcommittee.

From  Route Fifty:

Congress established the revolving fund program in the mid-1990s. Through it, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides money states can use to extend low-interest loans for drinking water projects—specifically those needed to comply with federal drinking water regulations and to meet health goals in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Authorization expired for the program in 2003. At that time, funding for it was authorized at up to $1 billion annually. Lawmakers have continued to provide money for the program in the years since, with levels generally in the $800 million to $900 million range in recent years.

The new House legislation would raise the annual authorization level gradually from $1.2 billion in fiscal 2018, to $2 billion in 2022.

Environmental Protection Agency estimates indicate that public water systems in the U.S. need to invest $384 billion in infrastructure improvements over 20 years to ensure the delivery of safe drinking water, according to a Congressional Research Service report from May.

A draft House appropriations bill for the upcoming 2018 fiscal year includes about $863 million for the drinking water revolving fund.

Tonko stressed that, in his view, the federal government has a responsibility to assist local drinking water systems with upgrades.

“We cannot fool ourselves into thinking local governments can do this on their own,” he said.

Recent Conduit Street coverage: Water Companies Are Billions Short to Fix Country’s Aging Water Systems

U.S. House Cuts Local Community Policing Funding

In a mark-up of a fiscal 2018 appropriations bill released yesterday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee proposes cutting funding to the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, which provides grants to local governments for officer hiring and community policing. Charles County and the City of Salisbury received grants under the program in 2016.

From Route Fifty:

COPS hiring grants provide money to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire officers that can assist with community policing activities. Community policing is generally geared toward building trust and collaboration between police and the places they serve.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, made a case this week for the hiring grants, and other COPS initiatives slated for cuts, in a letter to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee.

The letter said that the hiring grants had helped 13,000 state, local and tribal agencies hire and redeploy roughly 129,000 law enforcement officers.

Landrieu asks that the bill be amended so that the funding for the COPS Office and its programs at least matches the levels in Trump’s budget proposal.

The President’s budget included $207 million in funding for the program. It received $194 million in the budget for the current fiscal year.

Allegany Receives Grants for Three Local Water Projects

Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved more than $92 million in grants Wednesday to projects designed to reduce pollution and improve water quality. Three projects in Allegany County were among the funding recipients.

Cumberland Times-News reports,

Frostburg will receive a Bay Restoration Fund grant of more than $2.1 million for the next phase of its effort to separate combined sewers and reduce the frequency and volume of combined sewer overflows during wet weather. The next phase of the project includes installation of new sewers and storm drains to separate combined sewers along Grant Street.

The project will reduce wet-weather sewage flows to downstream sewage treatment facilities in Allegany County, LaVale and Cumberland, and it will reduce combined sewer overflows to Georges Creek, the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, officials said.

A $150,000 grant in the form of forgiveness of a Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund loan to Allegany County, along with a second $150,000 Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund loan, will help fund the Prince Albert/Sunnyside Water Project near Mount Savage.

The project includes the design and construction of water lines, valves and fire hydrants to extend public water service from Allegany County’s Mount Savage Water System to the Prince Albert/Sunnyside community, where residents have experienced problems with their private wells and have asked the county to extend public water service. The new extensions will provide safe and reliable drinking water and fire protection, officials said.

A $137,500 Water Supply Financial Assistance grant to Allegany County will help fund the Pond Circle Road Project.

The project entails the extension of public water service from Allegany County’s Carlos/Shaft/Klondike Water District to about 20 residential units in the Pond Circle Road area. The project will provide clean, reliable drinking water and fire protection to the area, officials said.

Read the full article for more information.

Anne Arundel Looks to Expand ‘Safe Stations’

Anne Arundel County officials want to expand its “Safe Stations” addiction treatment referral program as Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday more than $22 million will go toward combating heroin addiction.

The Capital Gazette reports,

In a release, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said about $17.7 million will go to “Maryland’s 24 local jurisdictions and service providers to fund prevention, enforcement, and treatment efforts throughout the state.”

Anne Arundel County’s Opioid Intervention Team — headed by the county health officer and emergency manager to examine issues involving opioid addiction in their community — will receive $286,858.61 in additional money.

Out of the 23 counties and Baltimore city, Anne Arundel received the third most amount of funding in the state out of a $4 million pot — behind Baltimore city and Baltimore County.

It’s in line with the number of opioid overdoses the county saw in 2016, which was also the third highest in the state.

Fran Phillips, the acting executive director of the county’s Department of Health, said the county’s Opioid Intervention Team is still discussing how to best spend the more than $285,000, but are looking at sending additional funds to the county’s “Safe Stations” program.

Launched in April, the program turns the county’s firehouses and police stations into veritable safe havens for drug addicts seeking treatment. Anyone who is addicted to drugs who walks into a police station or firehouse can ask for help without fear of being arrested and then referred to a treatment center.

As of July 5, 74 people have taken advantage of the program, according to the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

“That is working and we feel that is something we want to be able to expand the capability of,” Phillips said.

Outside of $4 million distributed to each jurisdiction’s Opioid Intervention Team, the largest single allocation is $3.2 million “to expand treatment beds statewide,” the state department said.

The department said $10 million of the funding comes from Hogan’s commitment to put $50 million toward addressing the state’s growing opioid problem.

Another $10 million comes from the federal 21st Century Cures Act and the last $2.1 million comes from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the department said.

It also follows the passage of the Hope Act in the General Assembly earlier this year, which directs the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to open a new drug treatment center in the state by summer of 2018.

More than half of the $22 million in funding goes to treatment specifically, with $3.2 million going toward expanding “treatment beds statewide, as well as a tracking system,” the department said.

State health department spokeswoman Katie Kuehn wrote in an email that “local, county, and state agencies have the opportunity to apply for competitive grants from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention.”

The office’s executive director, Glenn Fueston, said the funding “will be used to continue to collaboration and coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement.”

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Governor Announces $22M to Combat Opioids, 80% Dedicated to Local Efforts

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Governor Declares State of Emergency, Announces New Funding to Fight Opioid Epidemic

2018 County Budgets Show Priorities

Today, July 1, marks the start of a new fiscal year for Maryland’s county governments.

Screenshot 2017-07-01 11.18.29
Maryland counties fund education and employee salaries while largely maintaining tax rates. Click here for MACo’s chart of county budget actions.

MACo has gathered the overview information on county budgets from various sources for a summary of fiscal 2018 county budget actions.


General fund county operating budgets grew by an average of more than 3% statewide.


Every county provided some employee salary enhancements, with several counties giving special consideration to public safety employees.


Most counties maintained tax rates, and some reduced rates and eliminated certain taxes.


More than half of Maryland’s counties exceeded the required education funding, also called “maintenance of effort,” for a total of more than $174 million in additional education funding.

For county-by-county budget details, see MACo’s County Budgets in Brief 2018.


Will You Throw the First Pitch?

Screenshot 2017-06-26 15.05.44
Step up and share your county’s IT needs at MACo’s Summer Conference.

This year’s MACo Conference offers attendees an opportunity to voice county government information technology interests directly to private sector providers in an informal, informational format.

Share challenges & discover capabilities in this new Tech Wednesday offering.

SWITCH PITCH” IGNITE! — Meet Your Match: Solutions to County IT Challenges

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Gain quick insight into what tech can do for county governments in this fast-paced session. County IT and management professionals will state their needs, and vendors in the Tech Expo Tradeshow will respond with their pitch for solving the top tech issues. Attendees will get a chance to learn a little about a lot of vendors in a short period of time. Listen and learn!

Example County Pitches

  1. How do I empower employees to work from home in a secure and productive manner at minimal cost to the County?
  2. There are so many mobile apps in the market. Other than reading through the reviews, how can one determine the overall quality of a mobile app?  Is there a standard to check an app’s quality? What is it?
  3. What and where have been some of the more successful public/private partnerships providing broadband to unserved rural areas?

SIGN UP HERE TO BE A PART OF THIS SESSION Space is limited – Reply by July 19.

Have a pitch, but you are not attending this session?  Contact Robin Clark Eilenberg at MACo.

Tech Wednesday Vendor List

  • AVI-SPL, Inc
  • CDW-G
  • Comcast
  • Commvault
  • Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc.
  • Data Networks of America
  • ePlus Technology Inc.
  • Esri
  • Freedom Broadband
  • Fujitsu America, Inc.
  • GovDeals, Inc.
  • Juniper Networks
  • Lenovo
  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Maryland Libraries
  • Maryland Relay
  • Motorola Solutions, Inc.
  • Musco Sports Lighting
  • NIC Maryland
  • Phillips Office Solutions
  • Presidio
  • Prosys Information Systems
  • Regent Development Consulting, Inc. (RDC)
  • Ricoh USA, Inc.
  • Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.
  • Rudolph’s Office & Computer Supply, Inc.
  • SAIC
  • ShoreScan Solutions
  • Splunk
  • Sprint
  • Supply Solutions, LLC
  • Tomi Environmental Solutions

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Calvert Commissioners Approve FY 2018 Budget

From Calvert County, Maryland:

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a $282.8 million Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 general fund operating budget by a vote of 4 to 1. It is a balanced budget with no tax rate increase and no use of fund balance.

The county expects to receive the first payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) payment from the Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG Terminal in FY 2018, which will add approximately $25 million to general fund revenues.

“This budget clearly reflects our priorities while addressing the issues facing Calvert County,” said board President Tom Hejl. “In FY 2018, we will continue to exercise conservative financial management for the good of our citizens. This budget puts Calvert County in a strong fiscal position.”

The FY 2018 budget features an additional $36 million more for the operating budget than in the prior fiscal year. This increased spending is largely due to the fact that staffing needs, equipment purchases, pay increases and payments toward retiree benefits were deferred during the recession years. Some of the specifics are:

  • $1.4 million more for health insurance
  • $2 million more for county road paving
  • $2 million more for vehicles and equipment
  • $2.5 million for employee salary increases
  • $3.4 million more for new staffing, new equipment and new initiatives
  • $6 million additional for Calvert County Public Schools
  • $17.9 million for Other Post Employment Benefit costs (OPEB)

About 49.9 percent, or $141 million, of the county’s general operating budget is committed to public school operations, infrastructure costs and the schools’ OPEB, which represents an increase of 16.3 percent, or $19.8 million.

In addition, the six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) lays out the county’s capital program for FY 2018-2023, totaling $273.7 million. School construction and renovations account for $103.6 million of the CIP budget, with significant resources focused on the replacements of Northern High and Beach Elementary schools.

Click here to review the budget in its entirety.

Calvert Commissioners OK Funds for License Plate Readers

The Calvert County Commissioners Tuesday approved a Sheriff’s Office request for over $215,000 for the purchase of two license plate readers (LPRs). The money is coming from the county government’s Safety Camera Revenue Account.

The Bay Net reports,

The Safety Camera Revenue Account, a component of the Safety for Students Act, is funded by money realized from fines levied against drivers who exceed the speed limit in school zones where the cameras are set up. Another portion of the account is being used to purchase body cameras for several deputies. That allocation is within the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget, which takes effect July 1.

The request for the purchase of two LPRs was made last month by Sheriff Mike Evans [R]. “The LPRs will effectively capture license plate information of all vehicles entering and exiting via routes 260 and 4, which is important because a majority of bank robberies and armed robberies of businesses have historically occurred in Northern Calvert County,” Assistant Sheriff Lt. Colonel Dave McDowell stated in a memo to the commissioners. “This is part of the sheriff’s plan to use the Safety for Students program revenue source to purchase one-time, high priority expenditures for equipment and other operational needs.”

No member of the public spoke at the public hearing, however, a few of the commissioners had plenty to say prior to a final vote. Despite assurances from McDowell and Evans that data recorded by the LPRs was not to be used for nefarious purposes, Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2] indicated he was opposed to the plan. “I don’t want to end up in ‘big brother’ syndrome—that’s where America is headed,” said Nutter, a retire sheriff’s deputy.

Evans stated that the county already has LPRs and “they have been a great tool.” The sheriff declared have the LPRs in place at the county’s north border would help address a serious public safety issue. “We are only looking for people who are breaking the law,” said Evans.

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] stated that the LPRs were “the electronic version” of human eyewitnesses.

“Most people move here for the quality of life,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1], adding that public safety contributed to the quality. “I would like to expand it [LPR program]. This is going to give police so many more pairs of eyes.

Still, Nutter argued that have motor vehicle license plates observed and recorded was compromising an individual’s privacy. “There’s no privacy, Pat. It’s just a part of life,” said Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large], who is also a law enforcement veteran.

Sensing there might not be an end to the discussion, Hejl called for a vote. The board voted 4-to-1, with Nutter opposed, to closing the public record and approving the budget resolution.

Read the full article for more information.

Anne Arundel Budget Funds Education and Public Safety

The budget will fund renovations at three elementary schools, including Richard Henry Lee Elementary (pictured).

As reported by the Capital Gazette,

The Anne Arundel County Council on Wednesday passed a final version of the fiscal year 2018 budget, a $1.5 billion spending plan that funds a salary step for teachers, 40 new public safety officers and a boost to renovation projects at three aging elementary schools, among other items.

For more, see County Council approves budget for fiscal year 2018 from the Capital Gazette and see the Anne Arundel County Budget Office.

Not-So-Deep Pockets: Lawsuits Are Bankrupting Counties

It’s not uncommon for lawsuits to bankrupt local governments, according to a recent article in Governing – and there is little a county can do to protect itself, aside from maintain healthy reserve funds. While only 54 local governments have filed for bankruptcy since 1980, legal judgments played a factor in nearly 30 percent of those.

Governing reports on Nebraska’s rural Gage County, where a federal jury awarded $28.1 million in damages plus attorney’s fees last year to six people wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. With 22,000 residents and an insurance carrier which declines to cover the liability, there is little more Gage can do.

“No county could prepare for that,” Myron Dorn, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said in an interview.

Increasing taxes to cover the judgment would be difficult, because Nebraska’s property tax cap limits the county from raising taxes by more than about $3.7 million. Residents could theoretically vote to exceed the state-imposed limit, but that is unlikely.

The county has appealed the verdict and is awaiting a decision; in the meantime, officials have hired bankruptcy attorneys to explore their options in case they lose the appeal.

Boise County, Idaho filed for bankruptcy six years ago after receiving a judgment of $5.4 million for a Fair Housing Act violation. It managed to stay solvent after paying the judgment using bond proceeds and receiving state legislative approval to raise property taxes so it could repay the bond. Governing provides a number of other examples in its article here.

MACo engaged in a contentious battle last session to protect counties against a bill which would have increased counties’ exposure to litigation by making it easier for courts to award attorney’s fees to prevailing plaintiffs for Maryland constitutional law violations. HB 903 / SB 705 died in the Senate, but only after coming to the floor, getting recommitted to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and returning to the floor again. Read about it in MACo’s 2017 End of Session Wrap-Up: Government Liability & Courts.