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 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.

Valued Purchasing Officers, Better Purchasing Value

Procurement is an area requiring greater attention from government leaders, reports Route Fiftyin summarizing a survey conducted by Seattle-based business intelligence company Onvia of 668 state and local government procurement staff. Issues with response agility, customer service and reputation all led to an overall decrease in procurement agencies’ overall effectiveness, according to the report.

“Smart governments recognize that strategic investments in their procurement teams translate into more value for the citizens they serve,” said Ben Vaught, Onvia for Government director, in a statement.

Successful procurement teams saw their funding increased, engaged better with stakeholders, used more efficient purchasing methods, and adopted some form of e-Procurement. Nearly 40 percent of government procurement professionals has implemented e-Procurement to cut down on processing times, according to the report.

Time-constrained buyers require more information on purchasing processes up front.

Four out of every 10 agencies reported failing to attract enough bids, a slight improvement on last year. But it remains an area requiring greater state and local government attention.

Unemployment Down, But So Are Total Jobs

Maryland lost 1,600 jobs in May, but even so, the state’s unemployment rate has still fallen to below the national average. Unemployment fell from 4.3 percent in April to 4.2 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in May. Maryland added 43,100 jobs over the last year.

From the Baltimore Business Journal

The overall decrease was driven by a loss of 1,300 private sector jobs and 300 government jobs, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor. …

The construction sector gained 4,800 jobs over the month, the most of any sector. A month after posting the biggest decline with 900 jobs, the trade, transportation and utilities sector rebounded by gaining 1,600 positions. The professional and business services sector gained 400 jobs.

On the flip side, education and health services saw the biggest decrease in May, losing 2,900 jobs. The leisure and hospitality sector lost 2,200 jobs and the financial services sector decreased by 1,700 positions. The manufacturing sector lost 1,500 jobs, a month after it gained 200.

Florida saw the greatest gains in jobs this past month with 29,600 jobs. New Jersey saw the greatest loss, with a decrease of 13,100 jobs.

Fed Raises Rates 0.25%

The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percent, making the new range 1 percent to 1.25 percent, for a rate that is currently 0.91 percent. The Federal Reserve last raised the interest rate in March and has indicated that it plans to implement one more raise this year. While still low, the interest rate increases will mean higher borrowing costs.

NPR reports:

In a statement Wednesday, the policymakers said that “the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising moderately so far this year.”

The economy grew at a rate of 1.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, about half as fast as it did in the final three months of 2016. Unemployment dipped to 4.3 percent in May, a 16-year low.

“Job gains have moderated but have been solid, on average, since the beginning of the year, and the unemployment rate has declined,” the Fed statement said. “Household spending has picked up in recent months, and business fixed investment has continued to expand.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, the central bank added Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities to its balance sheet. Now it’s making plans to reduce those holdings, which total more than $4 trillion.

The Fed said it “currently expects to begin implementing a balance sheet normalization program this year, provided that the economy evolves broadly as anticipated.”

The press release issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is available here.

Baltimore Joins Localities Nationwide Alleging Water Treatment Chemical Conspiracy

Following years of investigations by the FBI and federal prosecutors into alleged antitrust violations committed by manufacturers of the municipal water treatment chemical alum, the City of Baltimore is suing 18 such manufacturers, alleging that they colluded to divvy up customers and drive up alum’s cost. The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages. Some company executives have already admitted involvement in the scheme to stifle competition.

Baltimore City is not the only local government to file suit over the alleged conspiracy – at least 68 other suits have been filed throughout the country over the same potential antitrust activity, reports The Baltimore SunFrom that article:

Alum, or aluminum sulfate, is used to force impurities in water to settle so they can be removed. For years, the city bought the chemical from Delta [Chemical Corp., a local company]. The lawsuit alleges that even though GEO Specialty Chemicals had an alum plant in Maryland it never bid for the city’s business. Neither did USALCO, [an alum manufacturer based in Wagner’s Point in South Baltimore,] until it acquired Delta [in 2011], the suit alleges.

If a member of the conspiracy inadvertently won business they weren’t supposed to, the company would withdraw its bid, federal prosecutors say.

GEO pleaded guilty in the criminal case last year and was fined $5 million.

The result of the scheme, the city says, is that its annual costs for alum almost doubled in the 10 years up to 2009, from $1.2 million to more than $2.2 million.

The president of Delta told the city that it needed to dramatically hike prices because of an increase in the cost of raw materials for alum, according to the suit. But the city alleges that’s untrue and that the raw materials actually got much cheaper.

Delegates Morhaim, West Praise Procurement Reform

The State could potentially save nearly a billion dollars over the next five years thanks to procurement reform completed this past session, boast Delegates Dan Morhaim and Chris West in an editorial in The Baltimore Sun. Their op-ed highlights the extraordinary work performed by the Commission to Reform Procurement, chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford. The Democrat and Republican, both from Baltimore County, both served on the Commission and tout the group’s hard work.

The Delegates’ editorial explains how the State’s procurement budget is over $16 billion – so increases in efficiencies saving just one percent would result in an additional $160 million in the State’s coffers, without any program cuts or new taxes.

From the editorial:

Historically our Maryland procurement system has been dysfunctional, hard to navigate for businesses wanting to provide services to government, confusing to understand, wasteful and often duplicative and inefficient. There have been a number of reforms enacted over the past few years in the process, but it was time for a major overhaul. …

That’s why we were pleased to serve as the House of Delegates representatives on the bi-partisan Commission to Reform Procurement, chaired by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. The process included stakeholders from the public and private sectors. There were eight formal meetings, three meetings held around the state solely for citizen input, and numerous sub-committee meetings as well.

The result of this effort was a series of enacted bills that will have a major impact on how Maryland’s government operates. Additionally, these will help Maryland businesses compete for and win more contracts, thereby keeping jobs and revenue in the state.

The most important reform creates what almost every other state has: a chief procurement officer. That job will encompass responsibility for all state procurement, coordinating and clarifying procedures, identifying and adopting efficiencies, applying consistent standards and training for procurement officers, and staying on top of the latest developments in procurement reform. The Department of Legislative Services reported that this approach in Georgia and Arizona “observed financial benefits of approximately 10%.” In Maryland, the annual cost of this office could be about $1 million, but the savings could exceed $900 million over the next five years, assuming these improvements are fully implemented.

Other reforms will eliminate the need for businesses to complete applications for each and every bid when their basic information is already on file. Veteran and minority businesses will be supported. Consortium purchasing has the advantage of volume discounts and will be encouraged, but now Maryland businesses will be able to better compete for these contracts. Flexibility will be added so that large contracts can proceed intact or be broken up into smaller ones if there will be cost savings. The bid process will be simplified. For example, the current system for architects and engineers routinely requires applications over 100 pages long. These application forms will be reduced considerably, likely to 10 pages or less, without sacrificing accountability, thus making it easier for smaller firms to compete.

There is more work to be done on the state’s procurement system, but in 2017 the administration and the General Assembly worked together to take giant steps forward. We anticipate that this effort will reap benefits for decades to come.

Prior Conduit Street coverage on the Commission to Reform Procurement:

MACo Supports Improving State Procurement System

MACo Supports Modernization of Procurement System

Procurement Commission Issues Final Recommendations (…And There’s 57!!)

A New Way of Procuring Radios? Roger That.

It may sound quaint and old-fashioned to some, but for state procurement officials, purchasing radios is a current and vexing problem. State entities use radios and radio networks today for many reasons, including critical emergency services, expending millions of taxpayer dollars annually to procure radio technologies.

In a guest article featured in Route Fifty, the executive director of the National Association of State Procurement Officers shares how one state’s contracting improvements brought significant savings that materialized in multiple ways.

Route Fifty reports,

Even in the modern age of cell phones and social networks, you wouldn’t want a firefighter texting the stationhouse if you were involved in some type of emergency.

However, buying radios and the associated equipment is a challenge for procurement departments, who must balance the needs and wants of the users—police, fire and transportation, to name a few—and the complexity of the products against the ever-present need to keep costs as low as possible.

This is exactly the situation the state of Tennessee’s Central Procurement Office found itself in several years ago, when it had multiple, short-term contracts for various types of radios and maintenance agreements at fixed, and potentially non-competitive prices. Making matters worse, the contracts were limited and generally unable to keep pace with the dynamic radio market.

So, Tennessee officials created a new procurement process for radios that included several areas of innovation:

  • Three basic radios and maintenance contracts were consolidated into a single comprehensive contract covering all radio equipment, associated services, maintenance, infrastructure and test equipment;
  • Both manufacturers and dealers were allowed to offer product lines, thereby improving pricing through competition, while also ensuring end-user needs were met through  -expanding the product lines offered;
  • A second-tier bidding process allowed contracted vendors to compete on specific orders as needs were identified;
  • A flexible contract vehicle meant that new technologies or innovation in the radio market need not result in contract amendments;
  • Contract management issues were improved through the development of new key performance indicators (KPIs);
  • Asset management issues were improved through a new vendor-supported asset tagging program; and
  • Significant contract savings were achieved, including an 11 percent discount over previous pricing, and additional discounts through continual pricing negotiations.

These changes were accomplished due to the procurement staff’s recognition that more vendor engagement was needed if this contract was to maintain its utility over multiple years. The central procurement office established a broad-based stakeholder committee and ensured vendor input in the development of the specifications. The meetings that ensued with the vendor community were crucial in avoiding too-narrow specifications, maximizing vendor participation and competition, while still allowing agencies to meet their needs.

Broad vendor participation helped isolate true sole-source needs—something not uncommon in the radio space—from simple end-user preference.  The second-tier bidding process helps ensure that the detailed requirements inherent in each unique purchasing event are viewed by the entire vendor community, driving competition and lowering prices.

As a result of this process, many key service issues were resolved, as well. For example, one of the most important KPIs is the Warranty Expiration Report, which gives contract users a quarterly status update on when warranties, whether basic or extended, expire.

Through these contract improvements, significant savings materialized in multiple ways. Tennessee has saved nearly $2.4 million to date due to additional negotiations on large dollar purchases allowed by the contract. Similarly, among “apples to apples” product comparisons, the contract has yielded an 11 percent reduction on historical prices and contract structural improvements have resulted in dramatic time reductions associated with contract use.

Read the full article for more information.

Baltimore Area Home Values On The Rise

The median sale price of a house in the Greater Baltimore Area – the City and surrounding counties – rose to its highest mark in nine years this April, according to a survey based on listing activity from real estate tracker MRIS. The median value of $255,500 marks an increase of 5.1 percent from the prior month, according to The Baltimore Business Journal. 

From the article:

Sales volume across the Baltimore area also increased in April, the survey showed. A total of $971.3 million in home sales was recorded, a year-over-year increase of 8.9 percent.

Residential closings were also up by 2 percent in April over last year’s data during the same month. There were a total of 3,264 closings.

The survey found that a total of 4,464 newly minted pending contracts were recorded last month, slightly below last April’s pending contract data of 4,853 during the same time.

A house in the Baltimore metro market has a 26-day median market stay, the lowest level since 2007, down from last year’s average of 41 days, the survey showed.

Savings & Solutions with New U.S. Communities Paint & Paint Supplies Contract

U.S. Communities is excited to announce the award of a new cooperative contract for Paint and Paint Supplies. This contract was awarded to The Home Depot through a competitive solicitation process conducted by the lead public agency, Maricopa County, Arizona. The contract term is for three years with the option to renew for seven additional one year periods.

Learn more about this new contract that provides services and savings:

  1. Up to 20% off paints, stains and primers
  2. All paint purchases eligible for rebate of up to 5%
  3. Free direct-to-jobsite delivery
  4. Dedicated field support

More Information on the Paint Contract

Join U.S. Communities for one of its free informational webinars. If you are unable to join one of the webinars, click the information link below to have a Home Depot representative contact you.