Baltimore City

Contracting information put online at city's data portal

With the newest addition to Open Baltimore, the city's online information portal, residents will finally be able to easily find out how much the Baltimore Fire Department spent on Gatorade in fiscal 2011.

Answer: More than $2,000 was paid to Vend Central, a local foodstuffs wholesaler, to keep the city's firefighters hydrated.

What about helicopters, you ask? Since September, the police have spent $2.2 million flying "Foxtrot" overhead and shining its floodlights.

And just so you know, with only six months remaining in a two-year contract, Charm City's health department has spent less than half of the $20,000 it has allocated to buy the contraceptive Plan B from Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Last week, the Department of Finance's Baltimore City contracts database — which offers information on more than 700 contracts going back to July 2010 — was made public on the site that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched just over a year ago. It is the latest addition to the online collection of city data and, besides lists of public employee salaries, is one of the few data groups relating directly to the city's finances.

Near the end of January 2011, Rawlings-Blake signed an executive order requiring city agencies to make their data available through the site.

At the time, the mayor said making data easily available over the Internet would allow "innovative and creative people ... [to] find ways to improve service delivery and save money for taxpayers."

The site, which began with about two dozen sets of data, has steadily added information. More than 250 tables are now available.

In February alone, new data sets were added on minority and women's business enterprises, residential parking permits, city parking facilities and the housing market.

Though the Open Baltimore site says the contracts database will be updated monthly, some collections of city data have not been consistently maintained. For instance, one of the first data sets provided on the site, 311 Customer Service Requests, hasn't been updated since Aug. 20, 2011.

The public was notified Friday through Open Baltimore's Twitter account — @OpenBaltimore — that the data set was available for viewing.

"The Rawlings-Blake administration will continue to make new data sets available as time goes on," spokesman Ryan O'Doherty said Sunday. "It is an unprecedented amount of transparency and information that will continue to build up."

The city contracts data set can be found online at here.