Harford Board of Estimates approves Moores Mill Road contract

A $2.1 million contract for the first phase of improvements to Moores Mill Road in Bel Air was approved last week by the Harford County Board of Estimates.

The contract was awarded to Comer Construction Inc. of Forest Hill. Comer was the lowest bidder, coming in well under the engineer's estimate of $2.5 million, according to bid documents provided by the Harford County Department of Procurement before Thursday's board meeting. The highest bid received topped $3 million.

"We are anticipating construction to begin in June once school's closed," Carlos Smith, project engineer with the county's Department of Public Works, told board members.

The first phase covers improvements along 4,360 feet of road between Route 1 (North Hickory Avenue/Conowingo Road) and the traffic circle at Southampton Road.

Workers with Comer will resurface the road, widen some parts of it, conduct curb and gutter and sidewalk improvements, erosion and sediment control, landscaping and more, according to bid documents.

Workers with BGE, Comcast and Verizon have spent recent months moving utility infrastructure, and county officials have been acquiring property to accommodate the widening.

"That was a long, extended time to get all those property owners," board member and Councilman Jim McMahan, sitting in for Council President Billy Boniface, said.

Smith said "it was also a long period of time in getting the utilities relocated."

Board member Warren Hamilton, a citizen representative appointed by Harford County Executive David Craig, was absent from Thursday's meeting.

Utility rate study

The estimates board members also approved a $300,000 contract with the Black and Veatch Corporation of Gaithersburg to conduct a "comprehensive utility rate study" for the county's Division of Water and Sewer.

Member Jay Van Deusen, the county council's citizen appointee to the board, abstained from voting because he did not receive a copy of the abstract of the contract typically provided to board members prior to the meeting.

The rate study, the eighth item in the board's Thursday agenda, had been pulled before the meeting, and then replaced with a revised item.

Van Deusen mentioned he did not have the updated item as Tom Patti, an accountant with the Division of Water and Sewer, presented the information.

He was given a revised copy, looked over it briefly, and then abstained when the roll call vote was called.

"I didn't have an opportunity to review it, and our charge is to make sure the bidding process is done properly, and I didn't think I had enough time to review the project," Van Deusen said later.

McMahan said during the meeting county leaders "were quite confused about the rate structure" for water and sewer customers.

He thanked Patti for his department's efforts to obtain the study, saying it is "much needed."

Commuting study

The board unanimously approved a $101,100 contract with Wells and Associates of Silver Spring to conduct an "investigation of the feasibility and best practice assessment of telework and flexible commuting alternatives for the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) workforce," according to documents.

McMahan asked presenter Karen Holt, BRAC manager for the Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor, if any county funds would be used for the study, and she confirmed federal grant funds – which have been supporting the Aberdeen-based Chesapeake Science & Security Corridor office since 2006 – would be used for the study.

Holt said the study is the second phase in her organization's effort to reduce vehicle traffic on and around the Army installation. The first phase involved setting up the APG-CSSC Transportation Center on post to educate employees about alternate transportation methods.

A grand opening was held for the Transportation Center in March.

"This is a follow-on study that will actually look at best practices across the country," Holt explained.

Holt said those conducting the study will review best practices implemented in other defense communities with large civilian populations.

Radio flashes

Board members unanimously approved a Harford County Department of Emergency Services request to spend $29,267 on 37 "software flashes" to upgrade the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company's portable radios.

"This will allow those portables to access our 700 megahertz (radio band) and it is also going to allow us to have interoperability with the Baltimore County Fire Department," Mitch Vocke, manager of technology services for the Department of Emergency Services, said.

Vocke said the flashes are part of a long-term effort by his department to upgrade all fire company radios in Harford County.

"This is an ongoing project, so we're going to be back before the board from time to time as money is available to purchase more flashes," he said.

Vocke said software flashes – which are similar to downloading a software upgrade for your smartphone – are much more affordable than purchasing new portable radios.

He said flashes typically cost $800 apiece, compared to $5,600 for a new radio.

Closed session

Board members voted to go into closed session Thursday to discuss a matter related to acquisition of property.

The board members present then came back into open session and voted unanimously to take action on the matter, said Marylee Gorman, recording secretary to the board.

She could not provide further information because the session was closed.

Acquisition of real property is among the 14 criteria a public body can use to enter into closed session, according to the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

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