Harford County government has finalized its hiring of a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to represent the county's interests on Capitol Hill and in the halls of federal agencies.
A consultant with Duane Morris Government Strategies will keep the county on the pulse of what happening in Washington, especially when it comes to transportation issues and a possible BRAC in 2015.
The Harford County Board of Estimates approved a contract for $125,000 with the firm during the board's March 22 meeting in Bel Air, but not without some complaining from the head of the county's legislative branch.
According to the firm's scope of services provided to the board of estimates, "Harford County Government will be serviced by team members with in-depth policy backgrounds in appropriations, transportation, defense, intelligence and homeland security matters."
The firm notes that they "will also represent Harford County's interests before federal agencies and other federal officials and administrators and will contact and communicate with those agencies and officers as needed or directed by the county executive."
Executive Chief of Staff Aaron Tomarchio explained that Duane Morris had previously worked on BRAC activities nationwide, including the recent base realignment moves affecting Aberdeen Proving Ground.
County Council President Billy Boniface asked Tomarchio why the contract wasn't put out for bid.
Tomarchio responded that the company was "uniquely qualified" because they are so familiar with APG and they have valuable government connections.
Boniface, however, said the county couldn't be sure of the supposed uniqueness of the firm's qualifications unless the contract were bid out.
"Each of these agencies within the county could benefit and will benefit," Tomarchio said, referring to the department of public works and community services and other county government entities.
Boniface wasn't convinced.
County Executive David Craig commented that many connections between the county and the federal government are lost because Harford's congressional representatives are either focused on statewide issues or don't serve on the right committees.
"Someone working at the federal level [and not an elected official] is much more beneficial," Craig said.
The county executive gave the example of the Harford legislative delegation in Annapolis. Craig noted that he had asked for the delegates and state senators help with different issues, such as the hotel room tax, but didn't receive assistance.
Public Works Director Bob Cooper said when funding comes in for APG and BRAC, that money "typically stays behind the [APG] fence." He then asked Tomarchio to have the consulting firm look at federal funding for road improvements around the installation.
Craig agreed, saying the county wasn't "getting much help from the state, either" in regards to roadwork.
Although Boniface made an amendment, which passed, to have the contract be for only one year instead of including automatic renewals, he did not vote in favor of the contract.
Wheel Road improvements
Resurfacing and other upgrades on a six-tenths of a mile segment of Wheel Road in Abingdon will cost the county almost $2 million.
The estimates board approved the contract for $1,946,688 to Comer Construction, of Forest Hill, the lowest proposal out of eight bids the county received.
Construction will take place between Laurel Bush and Patterson Mill roads.
Records management for fire companies
A countywide records management system will hopefully fix an issue of record keeping by the volunteer fire companies and ensure information is given to the county on a regular basis.
The 43 modules, plus training and licenses, will be provided by Alpine Software Corporation and cost $155,370.
"[A records managements system] will ensure that each volunteer fire company's statistical information is provided to the county in a consistent and efficient manner," wrote Mitch Vocke, with emergency operations, in a memo to Henderson.
Harford Area Network
KCI Technologies will provide design and engineering services for 88 miles of fiber optic rings and laterals in the Harford Metropolitan Area Network.
Harford Metropolitan Area Network provides communications over Harford County's fiber network in Bel Air, currently connecting 14 buildings.
The company's services will include mapping existing and proposed fiber facilities, assistance with determining fiber distribution and lateral sites and defining final designed routes.
CMARC consulting services
DiDonato Consulting services will have its current contract extended for one year, with two additional one-year renewals, for $135,000.
The consulting firms provides services for the CMARC [Central Maryland Area Radio Communications] group. This is a cooperative purchase agreement with the other CMARC jurisdictions — Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties, plus Baltimore City.
Addressing underage drinking
After receiving positive feedback from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the state is awarding additional funds to enhance http://www.under21md.org, a county-owned website that addresses underage drinking.
The board approved a change order for a contract with Sharif Salama for $35,000, making the revised total $55,000.
Salama has developed and managed an independent website addressing the important issue in conjunction with Gov.Martin O'Malley's underage drinking initiative.