The members of Harford County's Board of Estimates unanimously approved a $43,090 contract Thursday to hire a "state government relations" consulting firm to advocate on the county's behalf in Annapolis.
The board awarded the contract to G.S. Proctor & Associates Inc. of Annapolis, which lists the Harford County government among its extensive client list posted on its website.
County government spokesman Bob Thomas said Proctor has provided lobbying services to the county for three years, and the contract approved Thursday was essentially a renewal.
The firm also represents a number of other corporate, educational and local government entities.
"Harford County has a requirement for state government relations consultants to access state committee and members representing Harford County on key issues such as transportation," county administration officials stated in procurement documents presented to the board.
Legislative relations in the county government administration is handled by Aaron Tomarchio, the county executive's chief of staff.
Tomarchio, who made the presentation to board members Thursday, said representatives of G.S. Proctor are "able to tell Harford County's story in Annapolis" because of long-standing relationships in the state capital.
"Having an extra set of hands in Annapolis, people who have relationships where we don't normally have relationships, that has helped get out needs met," he said.
Tomarchio said lobbyists have successfully advocated for Harford County when legislators of other counties tried to bar Harford from becoming part of a Youth Services Bureau in recent years and also worked to protect Harford-based defense companies from being harmed by this year's gun bill.
"A lot of getting things done in Annapolis, and getting things done in any government setting, is all about relationships," he added.
Wheel Road work
The seven board members also voted in favor of awarding a $1.5 million contract to Daisy Concrete Inc. of Maryland, which is headquartered in Edgewood, to complete the final phase of improvements to East Wheel Road in the Bel Air South area.
Glen Hebel of the Department of Public Works told board members the project would involve about seven-tenths of a mile of Wheel Road.
Five bids had been received and Daisy Concrete was the lowest bidder. The highest of the five was Dixie Construction Co., of Churchville, with a bid of nearly $2.4 million, according to bid documents.
Hebel said the segment of Wheel Road will be closed in mid-June, after schools let out for the summer, and the work is expected to be finished in November.
Detours will be available via Route 924 (Emmorton Road) and East MacPhail Road, Hebel explained.
Another segment of Wheel, between Laurel Bush and Patterson Mill Roads, was closed from mid-June to late November of 2012 for improvements.
Jail medical services
Board members also unanimously approved a one-year contract with Conmed Healthcare Management Inc., of Hanover, for medical services at the Harford County Detention Center.
The $2.8 million contract proposal, presented by Cole Nelson, of the Harford County Sheriff's Office, is an extension of Conmed's current contract with the county to provide medical, dental and behavioral and mental health services to inmates at the jail.
The contract comes with four one-year options, making it a five-year contract overall, ending in June of 2018.
Conmed has been providing such services to Harford County inmates since 2002, and provides the same health services for inmates in 21 counties across Maryland, according to a letter from Chief Operating Officer Dr. Stephen Goldberg, M.D. to Dan Guthrie, procurement agent with the county's Department of Procurement.
"Our long-term relationship has proven to be clinically and administratively strong as well as cost effective," Goldberg wrote.
The current contract, serving a "base population" of 430 inmates, ends June 30. The first year of the new contract approved Thursday does not come with a cost increase, but medical services costs, related to the national Consumer Price Index, would increase by no more than 2.5 percent each year during the second through fifth year.
"It's good for the sheriff and his staff, and he can operate for this next year with no increase," Guthrie said of the first-year contract.
Guthrie told The Aegis that county officials can negotiate with vendors such as Conmed on cost increases, such as those proposed for the four option years, but they cannot exceed 2.5 percent in Conmed's case.
He said such increases help vendors recover additional costs they might experience during year, but they are pegged to the CPI.
"It's a nice way to have that relationship with your vendors, to allow them to have that increase," he said.