Wednesday, March 23, 2011

budget proposal to adopt 70/30 cost sharing for insurance premiums

Hi all -

A question came up at last night's budget committee meeting about how much the County could save by extending the 70/30 cost sharing proposal for insurance premiums to MCPS employees. (The County Executive's budget proposes doing this for County Govt. employees, along with a surcharge for higher salaried employees). The OLO report modeled the 70/30 cost sharing option and presented cost savings for each type of County employee (Table 6 in issue paper C). The cumulative 5 year savings for County Govt. employees would be $59.5 million ($5.5 million in 2012); excluding MNCPPC and Mont. College. By comparison, the cumulative 5 year savings for MCPS employees would be $300.7 million ($28.7 million in 2012). Clearly, the lion's share of the savings would be from extending this policy to MCPS employees. something to think about for the MCCAB meeting.


Monday, March 14, 2011

DRAFT Letter on Old Gas Lines Approved by Quality of Life Committee


Dear Mr. Leggett,

Recently it was brought to the attention of the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board
(MCCAB) by one of its members that active and inactive natural gas-fed street lights are
present in some mid-County neighborhoods. The MCCAB is concerned that these lights may
present a public safety concern and request that an appropriate County agency further
investigate this issue and report back to the MCCAB and/or the public on its findings with
suggestions for any needed safety improvements.

Some gas street lights were installed on the County rights of way in some subdivisions
in Montgomery County over the past century including subdivisions in the mid-County area.
These lights are connected directly to the gas main lines and are not metered. Persons
who have operating gas lights on the County right-of-way on their property are/were billed
a surcharge on their gas bill. In the 1970s and subsequently, that surcharge increased
substantially. As the County urbanized, electric street lights have been installed in many
communities, including in those already having gas street lights, making the gas street
lights primarily ornamental, i.e., the utility of gas street lights for lighting purposes became

Many previously installed gas street lights are no longer in service: they have been
shut-off at a valve in the light pole, but are still under full gas pressure. Some gas lights have
been removed, but the gas lines are sealed near where the pole had been. One person in our
MCCAB (Mid County Citizens Advisory Board) group observed that those capped, pressurized
gas lines are quite shallow, approximately six to twenty four inches below ground. That is
shallow enough to be a surprise hazard for those planting bushes or trees in front yards.
We would like to know what were the requirements for installing gas street lights in
Montgomery County and how have these requirements changed in the last 100 years? Who,
if anyone, has the right to require the unused gas street lights lines to be sealed off at the gas
main line?

In view of property ownership turnover, are there actions the Montgomery County
Government can take to improve owners’ awareness of “orphan” gas lines?
Thank you in advance for looking into these questions.


DRAFT letter on Organizational Reform Commission Approved by Quality of Life Committee


Dear Mr. Leggett/President Ervin,

The Montgomery County Organizational Reform Commission (the Commission)
released its final report on January 31, 2011. The deliberations of the Commission have been
discussed at several meetings of the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board (MCCAB).

Most recently the MCCAB reviewed the Commission’s final report at its February 15,
2011 meeting and passed motions in support of the following Commission recommendations:

I. Structural and Organizational Changes

Boards, Committees and Commissions
2. Increase use of the Regional Services Centers’ citizen advisory boards and the Office
of Community Partnerships, whenever possible, in lieu of creating new citizen boards or
4. Reorganize the Human Rights Commission, folding its functions into other entities, and
eliminate the HRC office.
6. Reorganize the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission (CJCC) so that it is housed and
staffed within the County Police Department, and eliminate the executive director position.
Workforce Training
7. Enable the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, the Division of Workforce
Services (DWS), and its contractors to coordinate oversight of the workforce grants awarded by
the Executive and the Council.

Legal Services
8. Increase efforts to substitute costly contracted legal services with in-house expertise.
9. Form a Task Force to create a consolidated Montgomery County Law Office that would serve
multiple agencies.
10. Establish a Task Force on a Montgomery Housing and Redevelopment Department, to
begin the process of blending the Housing Opportunities Commission and the Department of
Housing and Community Affairs.

Parks and Recreation
11. Transfer all of the Parks Department’s “user services” to the Executive Branch of County
government, as part of the Department of Recreation. Retain responsibility for park planning,
environmental stewardship, and ownership of park property at the Maryland-National Capital
Park and Planning Commission.
13. Create a Shared Service Center for purchasing goods and services that would serve all
County agencies with a centralized procurement schedule and catalogue.
Real Estate and Facilities
14. Centralize real estate and facilities functions that are now handled separately by each of the
County agencies.

The 311 System
15. Consolidate information distribution and call center activities by expanding the County
government’s 311 system so that it also serves the other agencies.

Information Technology
16. Consolidate the County’s information technology leadership into a single independent Chief
Information Officer (CIO).

II. Procedural and Operational Changes

Collective Bargaining
18. Make the collective bargaining process more transparent and increase opportunities for
public input.

School Funding
22. Seek changes in the State’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law.
23. Seek changes in the State Education Article to authorize the Council to approve or reject the
economic provisions of a collective bargaining agreement.

Information Technology
24. Embolden all County departments and agencies to move in the direction of converting to
Cloud and Thin Client computing.
25. Expand the outsourcing of “seat management” to MCPS and Montgomery College.
26. Consolidate major IT platforms and provide for a migration path.

Liquor Control
27. Expand contracting of warehouse night-loading operations at the Department of Liquor
Control to all warehouse operations and improve retail services.
28. Contract out for a financial and performance audit of the Department of Liquor Control.

I hope you find this information useful as you deliberate the Commission’s final report.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

draft letter to County Council regarding renovation of Kemp Mill Urban Park

On March 1, 2011, the MCCAB's Quality of Life Committee approved the following draft letter to the County Council regarding the planned renovation of Kemp Mill Urban Park. The Committee recommends that the MCCAB approve this letter at its next meeting on March 15. The letter is a draft unless it is approved by the MCCAB.


March XX, 2011

The Honorable Valerie Ervin

President, Montgomery County Council

100 Maryland Avenue

Rockville, MD 20850

Dear President Ervin:

On behalf of the Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board (MCCAB), I am writing to thank the Council and the Montgomery County Planning Board for moving forward with the process of renovating the Kemp Mill Urban Park. I reiterate the MCCAB’s support for expediting the renovation of this park, which is a vital resource for the Kemp Mill neighborhood. Unfortunately, the park has significantly deteriorated since its construction in the 1960s. At a public meeting on January 12, 2011, consultants engaged by the Planning Board presented a recommended design concept for a park renovation to the Kemp Mill community. This design was based on input received from residents at two prior public meetings in 2009. Residents generally praised the recommended design but also offered substantive comments. The new design is meant to accomplish several goals, among them:

  • Retain an open water feature in the park while discouraging geese from inhabiting the park,
  • Expand the playground,
  • Provide a continuous walkway through the park,
  • Provide a lawn area outside the playground, and
  • Provide a balanced program to serve all users.

We support the general direction of the design but would like to offer some technical comments:

  • Although the playground area would be expanded from its current size, we are concerned that it will still be insufficient for the large number of families and children who use it. We urge the Planning Board to consider a larger expansion of the playground.
  • We recommend that the Planning Board develop a plan to maintain the pond’s filter mechanism that will filter leaves, twigs, and aquatic vegetation.
  • We recommend that the Planning Board develop a maintenance plan for cleaning the large quantity of trash that accumulates in the park on a regular basis; we are concerned that this trash could clog the water filters.
  • We recommend that the Planning Board examine the environmental and health implications of using a recycled rubber surface for the playground in the renovated park. The MCCAB has previously expressed concern about the installation of artificial turf fields that include material from old rubber tires (see attached letter).

At the public meeting, Planning Board staff indicated that it would likely take between two and six years to complete the park renovation. Because of this lengthy timeframe, we urge the Planning Board to work with Montgomery County Government to improve the maintenance of the park until the renovation begins. Given the Planning Board’s limited resources, staff could organize periodic community clean-up events to help maintain the park.

According to the Planning Board’s website, the renovation design is currently being refined and will be presented to the Planning Board for approval in the summer or fall of 2011. We request that the Council communicate to the Planning Board our technical comments on the design and our support for moving forward with the renovation. Further, we encourage the Council to include funding for the park’s renovation in the next Capital Improvements Program budget so that the renovation can begin as soon as possible.

The MCCAB has supported the renovation of the Kemp Mill Urban Park for several years (see attachments). We look forward to working with the Council on this issue. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our views on the importance of renovating this park.