Earth, Wind, Fire, WATER – All Together at #MACoCon

Juiced up about Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio? We are, too. Interestingly, Maryland’s rich water wealth helps drive our renewable energy advancements – both by providing resources necessary for offshore wind, and also by providing an opportunity to use energy generation to keep that water clean.

Get plugged in about the latest in offshore wind and animal waste-to-energy at the this year’s MACo Summer Conference, “Water, Water Everywhere,” August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Title: Earth, Wind, Fire, WATER: Powering Your County’s Future

wind-energy-2029621_1280Description: Water plays a remarkable role in advancing our state’s progress in renewable energy generation. The “big fans” of offshore wind certainly know this well. Interestingly, renewable energy options can also help keep the Bay clean, in return.  Over the past three years, the State of Maryland has funded nearly $5 million dollars to encourage technology that provides alternative strategies for managing animal manure on Maryland farms. Animal Waste-to-Energy specific technologies generate energy from animal manure – and keep that, um…stuff…out of the Chesapeake Bay. Join renewable energy experts for this exploration into the interplay between water and clean energy generation.

Speakers:

  • Jeffrey Grybowski, Chief Executive Officer, Deepwater Wind
  • John Fiastro, Director of Government Affairs and Communications, Maryland Energy Administration

Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Summer Conference will be held The conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Bay “Dead Zone” Predicted to be Larger Than Normal Due to Heavy Spring Rains

Star Democrat article (2018-06-20) reported that University of Maryland and University of Michigan scientists are predicting a larger-than-average hypoxic (low oxygen) and anoxic (no oxygen) dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay this year. The article noted that the main cause is the heavier than normal spring rainfall. The primary cause of these dead zones is excess nutrient pollution, such as from wastewater, stormwater runoff, or agricultural runoff, that causes algae blooms which then die and leech oxygen from the water as they decompose. Various climate factors, such as rainfall, can also influence the intensity and size of these dead zones.

Despite the larger than normal prediction for this year, Bay restoration efforts are having a positive long-term effect on the dead zones. From the article:

“Despite the forecast, bottom dissolved oxygen concentrations in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay mainstem have continued to increase since 2014, and last year we recorded the second-smallest hypoxic volume ever,” said Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “The bay is rebounding and responding, as seen by record submerged aquatic vegetation totals. Our strategic investments and sacrifices aimed at reducing nutrients and sediment are working, but more can still be done throughout the watershed.”

A Chesapeake Biological Laboratory news release (2018-06-18) provides further information:

This year, the anoxic portion of the hypoxic zone is predicted to be 0.43 cubic miles (1.78 cubic kilometers) in early summer and 0.41 cubic miles (1.7 cubic kilometers) in late summer.

“The Chesapeake Bay’s response to reductions in nutrient pollution may be gradual, involve lags, and be interrupted by the weather,” said report co-author Jeremy Testa of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “The forecast illustrates these challenges well.”

Measurements of the Chesapeake Bay’s dead zone go back to 1950, and the 30-year mean maximum dead zone volume is 1.74 cubic miles.

To learn more about the overall health of the Bay and the current and future direction of restoration efforts, attend the “Clear Water: The State of the Bay” general session at the upcoming 2018 MACo Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. The Conference runs from August 15-18.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Ellicott City Making Progress in Wake of Devastating Flooding

A large portion of Ellicott City’s Main Street was reopened to the public on Tuesday, just three weeks after devastating flooding ravaged the city.

According to a press release:

Effective Tuesday, June 19, Main Street will be reopened to two-way traffic west of Old Columbia Pike and east of Maryland Avenue. Vehicles traveling west on Frederick Road from Baltimore County will now be able to cross the Patapsco River Bridge and turn left onto Maryland Avenue to access St. Paul Street and College Avenue. New Cut Road will remain closed to thru traffic because of flood damage.

“Our public works crews have done a remarkable job repairing the necessary infrastructure to allow us to safely reduce our ‘no access’ footprint on Main Street,” said Kittleman. “I truly appreciate the cooperation and patience of the residents, businesses and property owners while this recovery work was completed.”

“By opening this portion of Main Street and these parking lots, we’re helping the businesses and residents who are ready to return,” said Councilmember Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City. “I would remind anyone traveling down Main Street, especially through West End, to use extreme caution and reduce speeds because of the clean-up and recovery work that is continuing.”

On May 28, more than eight inches of rain fell in Ellicott City, triggering deadly flash flooding across the city.

Recent events have reminded not only emergency managers, but all of us, that devastating weather events can strike at any time – and that comprehensive planning is essential for a quick and efficient response. From ruptured water mains to natural floods, no county is immune from water-related emergencies. At this year’s annual MACo Summer Conference, learn how Maryland counties are collaborating with industry professionals to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address these emergencies quickly and efficiently.

Batten Down the Hatches! Weathering a Water Crisis

Description

No county is immune from water-related emergencies. From ruptured water mains to natural floods, counties must work with local water agencies to ensure that comprehensive crisis management plans are in place to address emergencies quickly and efficiently. Using real-life experiences and case studies, this session will cover various aspects of crisis management, including preparing and rehearsing a crisis response plan, creating and maintaining communications with media and residents, and a discussion of best practices from industry professionals and leaders in local government.

Speakers

  • Mark R. Weaver, Esq., Communications Counsel, Inc.
  • Ellen Coren, President & CEO, Chesapeake Public Strategies
  • David McDonough, WSSC Division Manager, Police and Homeland Security
  • Art Shapiro, Bureau of Utilities Chief, Howard County Department of Public Works

Moderator: The Honorable Allan Kittleman, County Executive, Howard County

Date & Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Health of the Bay Highlighted at #MACoCon

Get an update on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the path of current and pending restoration efforts, and related federal water issues at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

Clear Water: The State of the Bay

Description

The Chesapeake Bay is a defining natural, cultural, and economic centerpiece of the state of Maryland. This precious and unique resource has been subject to significant restoration efforts over the last decade, with significant contributions by county governments. Panelists will discuss the current health of the Bay, including: water quality, aquatic vegetation, wildlife habitat, and fishery health. They will also discuss the progress made to date on Bay restoration goals and the future of restoration efforts, including the likely role of county governments.

Speakers

  • Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Environment, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Mark Belton, Secretary of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Julie Ufner, Environment, Energy and Land Use Associate Legislative Director, National Association of Counties

Date & TimeFriday, August 17, 2018; 9:00 am – 10:15 am

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Handle with Care: Substance Exposed Newborns

The opioid crisis has generated an urgency to identify more effective and rapid interventions for substance abusing mothers and their babies that have been prenatally exposed. The implications of exposure are staggering, and have resulted in an increase in foster care rates and neglect cases that not only burden local county services but harm developing lives.

At the MACo Summer Conference session “Handle with Care: Substance Exposed Newborns” learn more about how counties are taking action earlier to save and care for some of our most vulnerable residents.

Title: Handle with Care: Substance Exposed Newborns

Description: One unfortunate consequence of the opioid crisis is the dramatic rise in substance exposed newborns (SEN). SEN are babies that test positive for a controlled drug or show symptoms of withdrawal from prenatal exposure. These children and their families can experience a variety of health and welfare problems that overburden county resources, resulting in a growing urgency to identify more effective and rapid interventions. In this session, learn more about recent federal and local action being taken to spur earlier intervention and care for substance abusing mothers and their substance exposed newborns.

Speakers:

  • Tiffany Rexrode, Assistant Director for Adult, Child, and Family Services, Washington County
  • Rebecca Jones-Gaston, Executive Director of the Social Services Administration
  • Jennifer Thomas, Staff Development Nurse Special Care Nursery and Pediatrics at Upper Chesapeake Health
  • Bethany Fisher, SEN Specialist, Harford County

Date/Time: Thursday, August 16, 2018; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The 2018 MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

MD AG Seeks Judicial Review of Wynne Whammy

The Office of the Attorney General has formally requested the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County to review the Maryland Tax Court’s ruling which essentially raises the Wynne Case refund interest rate from three to 13 percent – a decision which would likely cost Maryland counties $30 to $40 million.

On May 23, the Maryland Tax Court ruled that providing taxpayers lower interest rate payments on Wynne refunds than on other refunds is unconstitutional, because it violates the Commerce Clause. From the opinion:

The Wynne refunds are the result of income tax provisions relating to income earned in other states by Maryland residents that only allow credits against the state income tax and not against county “piggyback” taxes. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this was unconstitutional.

Following the exact same logic, granting interest at a lower rate must also be unconstitutional.

The Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2014 altered the annual interest rate paid for income tax refunds resulting from Wynne, requiring the Comptroller’s Office to use an annual interest rate equal to the average prime rate of interest during fiscal 2015: three percent.

MACo President Jerry Walker, Council Vice Chairman, Anne Arundel County submitted a letter to Attorney General Brian Frosh on June 11, 2018 requesting that his office seek judicial review of the tax court’s opinion. From that letter:

On behalf of Maryland’s 24 county jurisdictions, the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) respectfully requests that your office appeal the Maryland Tax Court’s May 23, 2018, decision …. Counties stand at the ready to assist on this front however deemed most helpful and appropriate.

We hope that you can represent the Comptroller, and practically, all of Maryland’s counties, by distinguishing the matter of how the refund interest rate is set from the fundamental Commerce Clause issues inherent in the Wynne case.

[Emphasis added.]

Four days later, the Attorney General’s Office filed its Petition for Judicial Review, and Counsel to the Comptroller Brian Oliner sent MACo this response.

From that letter:

We would like to thank the Counties for offering assistance.

To this end, county attorneys willing to lend their expertise on this matter should contact MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick, Esquire at bzektick@mdcounties.org.

The case number for this matter is C-02-CV-18-001788. For the most recent information on this case, visit the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website and search this case number in the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Prior Conduit Street coverage on Wynne is available here.

See Attorney General Brian Frosh moderate the panel, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water: Know Your Water Lawat the MACo Summer Conference. The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 15-18, 2018 at the Rowland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Know More About Your MS4 at #MACoCon

Make sure you are up-to-date with the latest information about Phase I and Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference.

Surviving the Stormwater Surge: MS4 Permit Update

Description

As Maryland moves forward with new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits for both Phase I and Phase II jurisdictions, county governments continue to struggle with meeting the worthy environmental goals the permits embody while acknowledging fiscal and practical realities. Panelists will provide a comprehensive update of the status of the MS4 process and key issues, including permit expectations, nutrient credit trading, and consent decrees.

Speakers

  • Jennifer Smith, Sediment, Stormwater and Dam Safety Program Manager, Maryland Department of the Environment
  • Erik Michelsen, Watershed Protection and Restoration Program Administrator, Anne Arundel County
  • Patty Bubar, Deputy Director of Environmental Protection, Montgomery County
  • Meredith Strider, Stormwater Program Manager, City of Gaithersburg

Date & Time: Friday, August 17, 2018; 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Cecil & Queen Anne’s Counties Jointly Appeal Phase II MS4 Permit

MyEasternShoreMd.com article (2018-06-07) reported that Queen Anne’s County and Cecil County have jointly appealed their recently issued National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. Phase II MS4 permits can apply to smaller jurisdictions with some urbanized population and are mandated under the federal Clean Water Act. The permit sets stormwater mitigation and retrofit goals that a local government must meet by the end of the permit’s term.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has delegated authority from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to draft, issue, and enforce MS4 permits in Maryland. MDE issued the most recent Phase II MS4 permit on April 27, 2018. The permit will take effect October 31 of 2018 and has a 5-year term. This permit will apply to Calvert, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, St. Mary’s, Washington, and Wicomico Counties, and numerous municipalities. Ten of Maryland’s counties are subject to a broader Phase I permit that is specifically tailored for each jurisdiction.

The article noted that while Cecil County is already a Phase II permit jurisdiction, this will be the first time Queen Anne’s County has received the designation. Both counties are appealing based on budgetary concerns regarding compliance with a 20% impervious surface area retrofit goal, which is estimated to cost Queen Anne’s County approximately $10 million through 2025. From the article:

Cecil County’s existing permit requirements have been manageable, but the added restoration requirement would add millions more to Cecil’s annual budget as well.

It is unfortunate that counties must file an appeal seeking to resolve matters contained in the permit, [Queen Anne’s County] commissioners said. The county is working to improve the environment in many ways and has devoted considerable resources toward improving the natural environment for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay, its residents, businesses and guests….The county strongly believes, however, that the extraordinary restoration and retrofit requirements prescribed by the permit are not financially or operationally practicable to fulfill, commissioners said.

Useful Links

MDE Phase II Permit Web Page

New Phase II Permit (issued by MDE on April 27, 2018)

Prior Conduit Street MS4 Permit Coverage

Learn more about both Phase I and Phase II MS4 permit issues at the 2018 MACo Summer Conference from August 15 to 18 at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

 

 

Lower Crime, Fewer Foreclosures, Faster Permitting…Data Tracking Contributes to County Performance

Prince George’s County’s transforming neighborhoods initiative has contributed to positive results through a CountyStat program focused on gathering and analyzing information from 3-1-1 calls and other sources.

The National Association of Counties article, Building Trust: Performance Metrics in Counties, profiles performance management programs in county governments in Maryland, North Carolina, and Illinois.

NACo writes:

Counties across the country are in a continuous process of performance improvement. From running local health departments to overseeing elections, counties deliver a variety of services and represent an industry of half a trillion dollars in annual operations. Performance metrics have become especially important for counties in face of rising state and federal mandates, decreasing funding shared by states with counties and multiplying state limitations on counties’ ability to raise revenue.

The presentation by Prince George’s CountyStat Director Ben Birge shared several ways that his county program has been able to deliver results, including public safety and customer service outcomes.

Screenshot 2018-06-12 10.17.17
Prince George’s CountyStat program offers service improvements based on data analysis.

MACo’s Summer Conference will include an Open Government and Data Work Group Roundtable, led by Mike Morello of the Governor’s Office of Performance Improvement, and Ben Birge of Prince George’s County Stat.

The conversation at MACo will include insight into how counties can improve outcomes and increase efficiency with existing resources and select the best targets for results from county performance tracking.

Screenshot 2018-06-12 19.57.09
The National Association of Counties survey found that data collection and metric identification to be top hurdles to county government performance improvement programs.

The National Association of Counties found that the biggest hurdles to data analysis for county governments were data gathering and identifying metrics. At MACo, the Governor’s Office of Performance Improvement will offer Round Table will bring forward for conversation:

  • Free data available from the State of Maryland, and
  • Metrics that make the biggest difference to your county’s bottom line

The Round Table will be held on Wednesday, August 15, from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm at the Roland E Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. To attend the Open Government Work Group Round Table, register for the MACo Summer Conference. Daily registration options are available.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Still Waters Run Deep… with Dark Data at #MACoCon

“Big data” receives a lot of attention among policy wonks and elected officials for its power to make government operations more efficient. While big data and analytics play an increasingly important role in developing strategies and informing decision making in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, local governments face barriers in acquiring and using such data.

That’s where “dark data” comes in.ball-63527_1280

Dark data is big data that is collected but not fully utilized.  During the MACo Summer Conference special session, “Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential,” attendees will learn about data resources available from various state and federal agencies – and how to make use of that data to inform economic development and government operations decisions.

The effort has been done in collaboration between the Maryland Department of Transportation and the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth.

Still Waters Run Deep: Dive Into Your Dark Data Potential

Dark data – underutilized big data sources – can help counties tremendously in their planning, engineering, and social project development. In this session, attendees will learn how to put available data resources to work at the local government level. The Maryland Department of Transportation will provide an overview of growth trends in population, labor force, and employment, and apply them to current commuting patterns within Maryland. Attendees will also be shown the types of data available to learn about their workforce and how that information can be incorporated into economic development strategies.

Speakers:

  • Cory Stottlemyer, Senior Policy Analyst, Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning & Capital Programming
  • Benjamin Birge, CountyStat Manager, Office of the County Executive, Prince George’s County

Moderator: The Honorable Jeff Ghrist, Maryland House of Delegates

Date/Time: Wednesday, August 15, 2018; 3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

The Conference will be held August 15-18 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Water, Water Everywhere.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: