$38.7 million approved for Back River sewage upgrades

In a session lasting 90 seconds today, the Board of Estimates awarded $45 million in contracts, with by far the largest expenditure bound for the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The board, headed by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, approved without discussion a $38,667,000 contract to Ulliman Schutte Construction Co. to improve sludge digester facilities at the venerable sewage plant in eastern Baltimore County.

The Ohio-based company beat out local builder Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. and Virginia-based Fru-Con Construction, which has done $117 million worth of work at the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, to win the award. There were four other bidders, whose prices ranged up to $3.5 million higher than the accepted bid.

The major cost ($24.2 million) will be for an acid phase reactor, with another $10 million allocated for upgrades to the high-rate digester and GBT (Gravity Belt Thickener) facilities.

While these improvements will reduce the amount of sludge going into Back River, they will have no direct impact on the cleanliness (or lack of) of Baltimore Harbor waters fed by the Patapsco River. Council President Young abstained from voting on the contract.

In other action today, the board approved:

$4 million to NextCar Rental to provide vehicles mostly to Baltimore City Police. The contract is a renewal of a $2 million contract awarded to the Laurel-based company in 2010, and will last for two years.

$1,135,474 to Dayspring Programs to provide housing and supportive services for 63 homeless people between March 2012 and March 2013. This works out to $18,023 per person.

$233,700 to At Jacob’s Well to provide housing and supportive services for 20 homeless people. This works out to $11,685 per person.

$871,000 to the Family League of Baltimore to support prenatal home visiting programs for pregnant women and women with young children. The Family League recently terminated a contract with the People’s Community Health Centers and hired Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation and The Family Tree. The visiting program is aimed at reducing low birthweight and premature births and  infant deaths due to unsafe sleep. Mayor Rawlings-Blake abstained from voting on the contract.

$481,497 to Machado Construction Co. rehabilitate the West Baltimore Bike Trail and make pedestrian improvement on Edmondson Avenue and North Pulaski Street.

Interestingly, Machado Construction also serves as the project’s DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) subcontractor, with a 60% ($289,326) share of the contract, according to the BOE agenda. Machado is owned by Mario Machado. Federal and state motor vehicle taxes underwrite the project.

$241,200 to Allied Contractors to make improvements to the Henry H. Garnet Park.

$206,854 to Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate 10 vacant properties for first-time homeowners in scattered parts of Baltimore, including Brooklyn and Pigtown.

$195,000 to DSM Properties to build the new Patterson Park Dog Park. Money for the project comes from two reserve funds held by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

$150,000, split between Stu Ron Springs and Efficiency Enterprises, to repair RV and motor home vehicles for the Department of General Services. This is an extension of a 2007 contract and “is needed to maintain continuity of services until a new contract is put in place,” according to the board’s agenda.

$52,000, split between lawyers Alan S. Carmel and Barrett W. Freedlander, to preside over informal conferences with residents and businesses seeking redress over their water bills.

“Carmel and Freedlander will take testimony from the complainants and any witnesses presented by the complainant, review the DPW [Department of Public Works] files and records on each complaint and will also take testimony from DPW personnel. In addition, they will render written recommendations at the end of each conference,” according to the BOE agenda.

The men will be paid $250 per water bill conference “not to exceed three hours.”

$76,210 to the Residence Inn by Marriott Baltimore Downtown to supply 52 guest suites for six nights as well as 16 testing rooms for five days for examiners to administer the police sergeant oral examination.

Most of the 52 examiners will arrive from surrounding police jurisdictions on Sunday, July 29, and will remain at the Residence Inn through Friday, August 3, to assist the Department of Human Resources in exams open to police officers who pass the written and multiple-choice test. The oral exams take place every two years for promotions to the sergeant’s rank.

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  • Ktrueheart

    Hey Brew you forgot to mention that the Marriott’s bid for 52 guest suites came in under the bid from BMore City owned Baltimore Hilton Hotel …

    • Anonymous

      From B Brew: Yes, the Baltimore Hilton was pricier than the Marriott Residence Inn “even with some reductions,” according to the BOE agenda. For the record, the Marriott rooms are $145/nite and the police test rooms $400/day.

      • TazMan


  • MairZdoatz

    Just wondering about the approximately $6k per person difference between Dayspring and Jacob’s Well. Are more services provided by Dayspring?
    Also, what does the Department of General Services use the RVs and motor homes for?

  • MairZdoatz

    Sorry to be a pain….the $4M for Police Department et al car rental……would that be for marked/unmarked ‘cruisers’, for ‘take-home cars’, or both?

  • p johnson

    While I applaud the Family League of Baltimore’s mission to reduce ‘low birthweight and premature births and  infant deaths due to unsafe sleep’. I wondering if thee is any data showing how successful they have been? And was this data considered by the BOE prior to awarding them more tax payer funds. 

    • Anonymous

      From B Brew: There was no data presented to the board on the success rate of the program. And as a “routine spending item,” Mayor SRB, President Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt approved the Family League award without comment.

      • bosconet

        That is pretty much what I expected and what is wrong about the process. Support programs that work (and if this one is one of them continue supporting it) but if it doesn’t work don’t fund it and find a program that does work.

        • Anonymous

          Just because data wasn’t requested by the board for these funds doesn’t mean the data doesn’t exist. For example, deaths due to unsafe sleep have dropped by half since 2009 through the work of the Family League and the health department. It’s a routine spending item because they’re in the middle of the project.

          • p johnson

            Thanks I actually do appreciate the information.  And good for them. If that money can contribute to fewer deaths I’m for it. I just want spending decisions to be driven by data, with the city rewarding progress and dropping underperforming organizations.

  • bosconet

    I wonder if the Board of Directors for the Family League of Baltimore has any connection to their funding?  per the board includes:

    Karen Webber Deputy Commissioner for the Baltimore City Health Department
    Thomasina Hiers,  Deputy Chief of Staff Office of the Mayor
    Karen Sitnick, Director Mayor’s Office of Employment Development
    Molly McGrath Tierney, Director Baltimore City Department of Social Services

    • Anonymous

      The Family League is a quasi-public agency (local management board), not a straight nonprofit using connections with the city government to get funded.

  • PCCP

    there is nothing interesting about Machado being listed as the disadvantaged contractor. federally funded jobs allow a dbe firm to list themselves as their dbe participation.

  • burgersub

    I don’t understand what this publication’s beef is with spending money on sewer infrastructure. This is definitely not the first time I’ve noticed you reporting in a sort of flippant, dismissive manner on a contract for this kind of thing. It’s as if you think keeping human feces out of our waterways, off our streets, out of our basements, etc, is some kind of frivolous expenditure. Even if you somehow believe these things aren’t necessary or worthwhile, is it your position that the city would somehow be better served by violating its consent decree with the EPA? I’m sure that would have a much worse impact on its finances than slowly making all of these repairs.

    This last part is particularly baffling:

    “While these improvements will reduce the amount of sludge going into
    Back River, they will have no direct impact on the cleanliness (or lack
    of) of Baltimore Harbor waters fed by the Patapsco River.”

    What exactly do you mean by this? Are you implying that we shouldn’t care about like half the city’s sewage just because it ultimately winds up at a facility in Baltimore County? Or that the health of any waterways besides the harbor doesn’t matter? Or that the condition of one of our two treatment plants cannot possibly have any implications at all for areas upstream of it, areas that would certainly impact the harbor were they to experience sewage overflows?

  • tony ford

    It will cost Billions to clean up Back River. The city, County or the State Of Maryland has hardly done anything about it too clean it up, but they have spent billions of dollars into the waste treatment plant. They have put money into stadiums, need improvements on roads, education, crime, and most of all Back River.

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