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Inside City Hall: T-shirt purchases roll past the $800,000 mark

T-shirt and other Board of Estimates spending this week.

Above: Does Baltimore city government really need all those T-shirts?

Baltimore is so broke that it can’t afford to keep all of its recreation centers open, but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Board of Estimates had no trouble today approving a fresh slug of taxpayers’ money for . . .  T-shirts.

During its weekly meeting this morning, the board approved without discussion a $60,000 increase to a city contract for agencies to purchase T-shirts, polo shirts and related outerwear.

The additional funds will bring the total authorized amount of T-shirt spending by the city to $817,779 since 2007. This includes $180,000 authorized since last June.

Ironically, the most prolific T-shirt user is the Department of Recreation and Parks, which is under intense pressure from the mayor’s office to spin off 18 rec centers to private operators to cut costs. A mayoral task force estimates that handing over rec centers to private parties – and closing those that don’t find sponsors – will save the city about $400,000 a year.

Rec and Parks distributes free T-shirts for various events, mostly to children and often for activities in the endangered rec centers.

Sanitation workers receive high-visibility orange T-shirts, while police officers in communications and evidence control – together with recruits at the Fire Department’s training academy – are awarded more up-scale polo shirts.

Master Blanket Purchase Order

Except for a brief stretch, Nightmare Graphics Inc. has held the city’s T-shirt contract since 2007. Based in Columbia, the group charges the city roughly $5 per shirt and has its own graphic design department to make original designs, Robert Andelman, vice president, told The Brew last summer.

The current contract with Nightmare is known as a “master blanket purchase order” in which agencies can order T-shirts through the Department of Purchasing.

Joseph D. Mazza, chief purchasing agent, said there were many checks and balances whereby each release of T-shirts has to be approved by the heads of the requesting agency and submitted to the budget bureau where analysts scrutinize the request.

Last June, Nightmare was handed a $120,000 contract renewal by the Board of Estimates. However, the number of T-shirt orders from city agencies has run so high in recent months that it was decided that another $60,000 was needed to satisfy the government’s craving for outerwear through June 2012.

Three Minute Meeting

The T-shirt contract was one of more than 40 spending items placed before the board during a meeting that lasted three minutes.

The following items were approved collectively, without comment, by Mayor Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, City Solicitor George A. Nilson and Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx.

• a $1.38 million loan (using federal funds) to LJ Johnson Square LLC to finance a portion of a new 74-unit apartment building at 1303 Greenmount Ave. The project is a joint venture of the French Development Co., headed by Jay French, and Empire Homes of Maryland.

• a $210,000 loan (using federal funds) to a non-profit arm of Community Housing Associates, Inc., to renovate a historic rowhouse at 2301 N. Charles St. into a seven-unit apartment for low-income residents.

• $1 million “on call” agreement with HAKS Engineers for consulting work for the city Department of Transportation. Last week, the spending board approved $2 million for two “on call” consultants doing identically-described work – “on-site project support GIS [Geographic Information Systems] support and tasks for various capital improvement projects.”

• $116,943 to McCormick Taylor Inc. for “on call” consulting to provide design services for a “Quiet Zone” in Locust Point. A quiet zone will allow CSX trains to operate at grade crossings without sounding their horns. According to the board’s agenda, “This process requires extensive study … to include but not be limited to developing Quiet Zone scenario, coordination with railroads and stakeholders, issue of intent for a Quiet Zone and Final Design for the Quiet Zone.”

• $1.8 million for lead abatement at low-income residences to be shared in $300,000 increments by six groups: Colossal Contractors, Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, Goel Services, Hawkeye Construction, MAC-Par Services and U.K. Construction & Management. Last week, the board approved $1.5 million for lead abatement and weatherization assistance, shared by the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, Goel Services and Hawkeye Construction.

$1,354,268 to Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, a group set up by the Baltimore Health Department, “for recovery support, integration of services, oversight, coordination and improvement of the Buprenorphine Initiative.”

• $664,582 to Health Care for the Homeless Inc. to provide primary health care service for homeless persons through its clinic and outreach programs.

• $348,000 to Living Classrooms Foundation to “provide services to stop or if possible, reduce the shootings and killing occurring in Baltimore City.” This will be accomplished, according to the board’s agenda, through the “five components of the model” – “community mobilization, public education, cooperation with law enforcement, outreach, and faith-based involvement.”

• $326,000 to Kipp Baltimore Inc., a middle school in Park Heights, for use “to continue the organization’s educational programs and to expand and improve academic achievement.”

• $315,710 to Baltimore Mental Health Systems to provide mental health services for 10 of the Head Start programs in the city.

$3.2 Million in EWOs – Plus a “Reverse” EWO

In addition, the board approved two EWO’s (extra work orders) involving the Montebello Filtration Plant. Both contracts involve a $36.9 million contract awarded to Alan A. Myers LP.

The first EWO, worth $1.2 million, will pay Myers for a changed configuration of the new junction chamber and piping at Plant No. 2, which will reduce the plant’s shutdown period from five months to five weeks. The second EWO, worth $2 million, was required to repair deteriorated piping discovered in the Plant No. 1.

In addition, the board approved a fourth EWO of $59,724 to P. Flanigan & Sons for roadwork at the Fairfield Ecological Industrial Park. With this EWO, the contract’s original bid price of $4.88 million has increased to $5.25 million.

And in an unusual move, the M. Luis Construction Co. has reimbursed $56,253 to the city on a $1.15 million contract to resurface Curtis Ave. and Rock Glen Road.

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