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Baltimore County News

Baltimore County News

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  1. Under Armour to open e-commerce distribution house at Sparrows Point

    Over one million square-foot facility will bring 1,000 employees to Tradepoint Atlantic

    Under Armour is opening a new 1.3 million square-foot distribution and warehouse facility in Baltimore County as part of the Tradepoint Atlantic redevelopment of the Sparrows Point peninsula. With its global headquarters in Baltimore, the athletic apparel and equipment company projects it will employ 1,000 workers once the facility is operating at full capacity.   

    “Under Armour’s new e-commerce distribution house at Tradepoint Atlantic is a perfect match for our vision for Sparrows Point -- this is a hometown company investing in the region and bringing 1,000 jobs to Baltimore County. Under Armour’s success is based on commitment, respect and the ability to creatively and strategically meet the demands of the marketplace. We are proud to be part of that team,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. 

    Creating economic and job opportunities

    “Our fourth distribution house will be a top-notch service engine for our e-commerce business to deliver the right product, to the right place at the right time to our growing consumer base and athletes around the world,” said Under Armour CEO and Founder Kevin Plank. “We are pleased to collaborate with Baltimore County and the State to create economic and job opportunities for the greater Baltimore community and Maryland as a whole.” 

    The facility, which is expected to open in the summer of 2018, will feature state-of-the-art equipment and systems to enhance Under Armour’s product distribution to its growing base of e-commerce consumers. 

    “Baltimore County proactively put key pieces in place to make Tradepoint Atlantic’s Sparrows Point site attractive to business. We initiated creation of the Chesapeake Enterprise Zone, established a foreign trade zone to facilitate global commerce and set up training systems for distribution operations workers,” said Will Anderson, Director of the Baltimore County Department of Economic & Workforce Development.

    Under Armour joins FedEx Ground and Pasha Automotive as tenants of Tradepoint Atlantic, a 3,100 acre development that is one of the largest economic development projects on the East Coast. The project features a unique combination of access to deepwater berths, railroads and highways that is ideal for global distribution and advanced manufacturing.     

    “Our vision for Sparrows Point is to attract world-class companies that want to take advantage of Baltimore’s deep talent pool, prime mid-Atlantic location and integrated transportation network,” added County Executive Kamenetz. “We’re well on our way to fulfilling that vision and bringing 10,000 jobs back to Sparrows Point.”

    Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:01:00 GMThttp://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/Under_Armour_to_open_ecommerce_distribution_house_at_Sparrows_Point__
  2. Kamenetz announces bold new plans for solar energy projects and energy conservation

    Solar projects to save County more than $20 million over 25 years, avoiding carbon emissions

    Surrounded by energy industry experts and environmental advocates this morning, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced that County government will significantly reduce its electricity consumption, while greatly increasing its use of renewable energy sources. He also announced a partnership with SolarCity to host solar panels arrays at four County sites.    

    “In Baltimore County, we have been strong stewards of the environment for decades and today we are making a major commitment to reducing our energy consumption and increasing our support of renewable energy sources,” said Kamenetz. “We are excited about this partnership with SolarCity and look forward to saving money on our electricity costs for County government operations.”

    Kamenetz issues Executive Orders, announces State energy grant 

    Kamenetz announced two clean energy policies, established today by Executive Orders, including:

    • Baltimore County will establish a goal to reduce per-square-foot electricity consumption by 15% within five years in County government buildings, pumping stations and streetlights, using fiscal year 2015 as a baseline. Under this Energy Efficiency Policy, the County will also develop an Energy Reduction Plan outlining how it will reach this electricity consumption reduction goal.
    • Baltimore County will also establish a goal to utilize renewable energy sources to generate or displace at least 20% of the County’s electric demand by 2022. As part of this Renewable Energy Policy, the County will also develop a Renewable Energy Action Plan.

    Kamenetz also announced that Baltimore County was awarded a $390,000 grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to participate in the Maryland Smart Energy Communities (MSEC) program. The MESC program was launched by the Maryland Energy Administration in 2013 to encourage local governments to adopt smart energy policies and goals, leading to energy savings and renewable energy projects.

    Currently, 56 Maryland communities, including seven counties plus Baltimore City, are designated as Maryland Smart Energy Communities. Grant funding for projects will be utilized as follows:

    • $310,000 for energy efficiency upgrades in County-owned facilities, and
    •  $80,000 for renewable energy projects.

    These grant-funded projects will help the County achieve its goals outlined in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy policies.

    “We applaud County Executive Kamenetz for taking a leadership role in combatting climate change,” said Karla Raettig, Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “We hope that more of Maryland’s jurisdictions will make commitments like this to increase their renewable energy portfolios and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    “It’s great to see County Executive Kamenetz take a leadership role in developing clean, renewable energy,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Sierra Club. “Clean energy has generated thousands of new jobs in Maryland while cleaning our air and protecting our climate. Today, he is proving that solar energy is both good for the environment and fiscally responsible.”

    Solar projects expected to save $20 million in electric costs over 25 years, avoiding carbon emissions

    Kamenetz announced that Baltimore County has signed power purchase agreements with SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar power provider, to host ground-mounted solar power systems at four County-owned properties and to purchase the electricity from these panels at greatly reduced rates. The County projects it could save more than $450,000 on solar-generated energy costs compared to current utility rates in the first year alone and could save more than $20 million over the next 25 years, assuming a modest increase in utility electricity prices over that same period. In the first year of operation, the solar panels are expected to provide greater than 20% of the County’s estimated electricity usage for fiscal year 2017, exceeding the 20% goal outlined in the Renewable Energy Policy.

    The solar power systems, which will be financed, installed and maintained by SolarCity at no upfront cost to the County, will be located at:

    • the closed Hernwood landfill site (Woodstock)
    • the closed Parkton landfill site (Parkton)
    • a portion of Mount Vista Park (Kingsville)
    • a portion of Southwest Area Regional Park (Lansdowne)

    The systems at three of the four sites are expected to be completed by the fall of 2017, and the last in the spring of 2018.

       
      
    “We are honored to
    work with Baltimore County to not only help them meet their goals of supporting the development of renewable energy, but also save them money with affordable solar-generated power,” said Brent Eskay, Senior Project Development Manager for SolarCity. “We hope other counties and towns across the nation take note of the tremendous steps Baltimore County has taken to support renewable energy.”

    21 megawatts of solar power could offset more than 20% of County government’s electricity needs

    The solar systems, which together total 21 megawatts, will produce local clean energy, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support green energy jobs and reduce and air pollution.  The systems are expected to avoid the emission of more than 482,000 metric tons of CO2 over the 25-year project lifespan, which is equivalent to removing about 100,000 cars from U.S. roads for one year, or equivalent to the amount of CO2 sequestered by more than 12 million trees.

    “This is a smart, positive step that reduces the County’s energy costs while helping to promote the reduction of harmful greenhouse gasses,” said Baltimore County Council Chair Vicki Almond.

     In order to execute this contract, Baltimore County piggybacked off of an existing Montgomery County contract with SolarCity.

    More about Baltimore County’s sustainability and energy initiatives

    More information about Baltimore County’s sustainability and energy initiatives can be found online at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/environment/sustainability/

    Mon, 29 Aug 2016 16:02:00 GMThttp://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/Kamenetz_announces_bold_new_plans_for_solar_energy_projects_and_energy_conservation
  3. Baltimore County prevails in the Federal District Court in the "damages" phase of age discrimination in employment case

    County not required to pay monetary relief

    On August 24, 2016, United States District Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled that Baltimore County was not liable to pay retroactive or prospective monetary "damages" in a case in which the court found that its retirement system discriminated against older workers in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The County had estimated that the "damages" could be as high as $19 million but the court ruled that the County did not have to pay anything and ordered the case closed.

    This case began in 1999 and 2000 when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued Notices of Charges of Discrimination to the County on behalf of correctional officers who complained that the contribution rates they were paying to the retirement system discriminated against them based on age. Until 2007, employees entering the retirement system paid rates based on their age at the time they joined. The County denied the charges.

    More than five years passed during which the County heard nothing from EEOC. In March 2006, EEOC issued a notice that the County's retirement system violated the ADEA and in September of 2007, the EEOC filed suit against the County. Because the contribution rates had been negotiated by the County's six labor unions, they were also brought in as defendants. In order to mitigate any possible damages, the County decided to provide that beginning July 1, 2007, employees joining the retirement system would pay flat rates of contribution that were not based on their age at the time they joined.

    The case was litigated twice in the federal district court and twice in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court denied the County's Motion to hear the case. If nothing else, all the lower courts in this case seemed to agree that the questions presented on whether the retirement system engaged in age discrimination were new and/or novel.

    During this time, the County, of course, had to negotiate new Memoranda of Understanding with it six unions. The County proposed a timeline for flattening the rates for all employees who joined the retirement system before July 1, 2007. The County and unions set a rate for each union and then proposed legislation to the County Council providing that those paying rates above the new flat rate would have their rates reduced to the new rate on July 1, 2016 and those who were paying below the flat rate would see a gradual rise in their rates over the next three fiscal years. Employees also received a 2% COLA and will receive 2% COLAs in FY 2018 and 2019 as well. 

    After the basic agreement had been struck, the County then proposed the agreement as partial settlement of the damages phase. After some negotiation over language, the County, unions and EEOC signed a Joint Consent Order Regarding Injunctive Relief settling a portion of the damages phase in April. The County Council passed the bill changing the rates in May.

    EEOC then moved for a determination of availability of retroactive and prospective monetary relief. EEOC essentially argued that the retirement system should pay for the "excessive contributions" those members of the retirement system who were paying the discriminatory rates from 1996 to the day the court issues judgment on the damages. They then argued that the County should pay prospective "damages" to the class of aggrieved individuals who will continue to pay at discriminatory rates until the age-neutral rates are completely phased in on July 1, 2018. As noted earlier, the County had once estimated that the total payments could be as high as $19 million.

    The County argued that neither retroactive nor prospective relief was merited and the court agreed.

    EEOC argued that retroactive monetary relief was required and that the court did not have the authority NOT to award the relief. In a comprehensive 42-page opinion, the Court noted that the ADEA provides that the Court may award "such legal and equitable relief as may be appropriate" and found that such relief was not appropriate for several reasons. Initially, the court was concerned about the burden on the retirement system or its members if it had to come up with $19 million. Paying that amount could have a tremendous effect on the members of the system, retirees and possibly even taxpayers. This expense could not be justified because up until very recently Baltimore County had reason to believe that its pension plan contribution scheme was entirely lawful prior to the determination of liability in the present case.

    The delay was key to the decision in another way. The Court stated that "even if retroactive relief were mandatory under the ADEA, this Court would still not award retroactive relief in this case due to the EEOC’s unreasonable delay in pursuing its claims." The Court wrote “each month the EEOC did not apprise [the County] of its continuing interest in the case likely led [the County] to believe, with increasing certainty, that it had avoided litigation. ... Accordingly, this Court is authorized to reduce the County’s retroactive liability as appropriate. In light of the extreme circumstances present here, retroactive monetary relief will not be available."

    The Court also relied on three Supreme Court pension cases that declined to award retroactive monetary damages.

    The County is pleased with this decision and happy that it was effectively able to finally end this litigation when it signed the latest Memoranda of Understanding with its labor unions. It is entirely appropriate that a case that began because of contribution rates negotiated between the County and its unions ends with contribution rates negotiated between the County and its unions.

     

    Fri, 26 Aug 2016 14:00:00 GMThttp://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/Baltimore_County_Prevails_in_the_Federal_District_Court_in_the_Damages_Phase_of_Age_Discrimination_in_Employment_Case
  4. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act local plan open for public comment

    Baltimore County’s blueprint for implementing the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is open for public comment. The draft plan outlines how the County will work to achieve a job-driven workforce system that helps job seekers and workers access employment, education, training, and support services so they succeed in the labor market. The plan also addresses ways to match employers with the skilled workers needed to compete in the global economy.

    The local plan was developed by the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development and the Baltimore County Workforce Development Board. The Board consists of a diverse group of local businesses, major employers, labor representatives and community partners.

    The plan incorporates priorities adopted in the most recent federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law July, 2014.

    Submitting public comment

    The Baltimore County Local Workforce Area Plan draft is available at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/business. Comments will be accepted until September 15, 2016 and should be sent to localplancomments@baltimorecountymd.gov. Please include a page reference for each comment to facilitate review. 

    Thu, 25 Aug 2016 12:14:00 GMThttp://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/Workforce_Innovation_and_Opportunity_Act_local_plan_open_for_public_comment
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