Add $100,000 to the nearly half million dollars that the city has so far spent on the mayor’s 10-year plan to straighten out city finances and eliminate future budget shortfalls.
On the heels of last week’s $461,000 consultant’s report forecasting a dim future for Baltimore government without cuts to employee jobs, pensions and health benefits, the Board of Estimates today created a full-time position to direct the mayor’s effort.
This year’s funding for the new post will presumably be followed by appropriations over the life of the mayor’s plan, translating to roughly $1 million in salary obligations through 2022. Or perhaps more: the grade level approved by the board permits a top salary of $121,400 a year.
On Monday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called for changes in employee pension and health plans – as well as longer hours for firefighters and a “users fee” for trash collection – to close the budget gaps forecast for future years as well as to cut property tax rates and boost infrastructure spending.
The mayor did not announce an appointment to the new position at today’s meeting. She previously said she would retain PFM Group, the authors of last week’s forecast, to provide professional services for her administration. The city has an option to renew its contract with the consultants for two more years.
And speaking of consultants: the Board of Estimates approved a total of $4.6 million to five consulting groups during today’s three-minute meeting (from 9:08 – 9:11 a.m.).
The following contracts were approved unanimously by the board, whose elected members are Mayor Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and City Comptroller Joan Pratt:
• up to $2 million to Prime Engineering and Hardestry & Hanover LLC to assist the Department of Transportation in bridge services “to include, but not limited to, bridge inspections, attending meetings, plans, specifications and cost estimates,” according to the board’s agenda. The contract will run for three years.
• up to $1,987,323.77 to Wallace, Montgomery & Associates to provide “on-call” services to the Department of General Services between now and February 2015. The consultant will help supervise repairs of city buildings “of an urgent nature [which] should not be postponed until the customary civil/structural engineering selection process can be executed.”
• $537,828.59 to EMA Inc. to perform consulting services for the Bureau of Water as the agency transitions to phase 2 of its Advanced Metering Infrastructure/Automatic Meter Reading (AMI/R) project. This project will reportedly eliminate the multitude of water billing errors and estimated readings that have plagued the meter-reading system for years.
• $84,700 to consultant McCormick Taylor to compile a planning/policy/feasibility study as part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan.
Other Spending Items
The board also approved:
• $688,356 to Associated Catholic Charities to “provide permanent housing to 45 individuals and 10 families in Baltimore City,” including rent and staffing, for one year. There were no further details.
• $600,000 from the construction reserve of the West Side Initiative to the Department of Transportation to remove the dilapidated skywalk at Hopkins Plaza in Charles Center.
• $550,000 to The Strong Group to supply flex cuffs for the police department.
• $500,000 to Lion Total Care Inc. for the repair and cleaning of firefighter turnout gear.
• $250,000 to Physio-Control Inc. for defibrillators and related equipment for the fire department.
• $36,565.75 to The Baltimore Sun as the sole-source provider of advertising for the annual city sale of tax-delinquent properties.