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  1. Correcting Scattered Voting Scanner Delays with Old-Fashioned Problem-Solving

    By Rob O’Connor
    Chief Technology Officer
    Baltimore County Office of Information Technology

    The Office of Information Technology prides itself on its role in making County Government more effective and efficient.  When we were asked to work with the Board of Elections following reports of polling place delays at some voting precincts during the 2016 General Election, we took immediate action. 

    A team of Baltimore County process management and technical analysts identified and corrected mechanical issues that were causing completed ballots to misfeed into the ballot scanning machines, particularly at the Edgemere and Rodger’s Forge Elementary precincts. In coordination with the Baltimore County Board of Elections, the County has taken several concrete steps to ensure that voters are not stuck in long lines due to easily remedied technical and training fixes.

    The intensive hands-on study, "Evaluating the 2016 Voting Process in Baltimore County," was conducted by business process analysts in the County’s Office of Information Technology’s Operational Excellence division, and it found sources of delay at several polling place stations.

    Rather than throwing money blindly at the problem we conducted a comprehensive review and determined that the solution was to make simple changes to the process and training protocols to ensure that voters can move freely through election stations. The County purchased 52 additional scanners to be placed in precincts identified as having higher voter demand than their current scanners can efficiently handle, and to serve as back-up machines.

    How the Scanner Delays Were Corrected

    Performance issues were identified at the scanning stations, where an excessive number of ballots were returned to the voter with the instructions to reorient the ballot and attempt scanning again. Research revealed two primary contributing factors that could explain those errors, and the project team found that the errors were most likely when both of these factors were present to some degree.​

    1. The printing vendor who produces the ballots for the State of Maryland had not received a quality assurance overlay gauge to ensure that the timing marks along the side of the ballots were aligned to the manufacturer’s specifications.  The timing marks are used by the scanner to properly identify ballot orientation and correctly match the voter’s mark on the paper to the proper candidate.  If those marks are misaligned, the scanner cannot accurately record votes, so the ballot is returned to the voter.

    Solution: The scanner manufacturer provided the needed overlays to the print vendor to be used to periodically check sample ballots during printing.

    2. The scanner has plastic guides on either side of its lens to ensure the ballot is inserted at the proper angle.  If the ballot is inserted askew, the timing marks will not be properly read, and the ballot will be returned to the voter.

    Solution: The manufacturer created a quality assurance gauge to ensure proper alignment of those guides.  All future scanners produced by the manufacturer have utilized that gauge during manufacturing, and poorly performing scanners were inspected to correct any improperly aligned guide pieces.

    Our team further concluded that the scanner’s voter protection prompts may confuse voters in certain situations. They worked with the County Board of Elections to specifically train election judges to better prepare voters, as well as training elections staff when and how to contact their supervisors for rapid scanner support or replacement.

    Additional Testing Shows Scanners Working Well

    After the above actions were taken, our project team retested eight of the scanners that had the most errors during the 2016 election using test ballots for the 2018 primary. These ballots were printed by the state ballot vendor using the same quality assurance process used for the live ballots voters will use. The test consisted of scanning more than 300 ballots with each scanner.  During that test phase, zero errors occurred. This exceptionally positive test result has made the project team hopeful that, during the 2018 election cycle, voters will experience significantly fewer errors than during the 2016 election.

    Further Tests Planned for Primary Election Cycle

    During the primary election, the project team will coordinate a time study that will be facilitated by chief judges at every polling place in the County. This study will identify when delays occur, and hopefully provide insight as to the cause of those delays. If further action is required between the primary and general elections, the project team with have the ability to make those improvements.

    Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:00:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/correcting-scattered-voting-scanner-delays-with-old-fashioned-problem-solving
  2. Job Connector in Communities Workforce Initiative Launches

    Job readiness training available this summer in County libraries

    Job Connector is bringing job readiness training into Baltimore County communities. Beginning this summer, the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development will offer new job readiness workshops at County libraries. The workshops, designed with employer input, address essential workplace skills such as effective communication skills, maximizing time in the workplace, displaying the image of your workplace, and managing your mindset.

    Each of the new Workplace Excellence sessions will meet twice a week for three weeks and be facilitated by a certified trainer from the County’s Workforce Development American Job Centers.

    “This program is about customer service, bringing new Baltimore County job programs directly to people in their communities. We’re ‘going local’ to help job seekers sharpen their skills and get hired faster,” said Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler.

    The free, three week sessions are geared for adult job seekers. The summer 2018 sessions will take place at the Lansdowne and Essex libraries in July and Loch Raven and Sollers Point libraries in August. Enrollment is limited. Interested County residents must apply via e-mail to jobconnector@baltimorecountymd.gov or call 410-887-8096.

    “This program is an excellent example of government working smarter by bringing agencies together to help people looking for a job. Library staff and career consultants bring different skills sets, helping us provide the best service to job seekers throughout the year,” said Will Anderson, Director of the Baltimore County Department of Economic and Workforce Development.

    “With 19 locations, each open 69 hours a week, our branches are gathering spaces that are accessible and trusted within the communities we serve. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff, along with public computers, loanable laptops and other essential resources, provide key tools job seekers need,” said Paula Miller, Director of the Baltimore County Public Library.

    Job Connector

    The Job Connector in Communities initiative is part of an innovative $2.5 million workforce program designed to assure employers have a workforce ready to fill high-demand jobs in high-demand fields. With over $5 billion in new economic development projects in the County, companies are hiring, but chronic shortages of qualified workers remain in many fields.


    Job Connector starts by looking at the specific jobs and skills that are needed in the Baltimore region. This results in a better match between employer and job seeker, and more certain career paths for employees who want to know that their hard work and skills can lead to promotions and higher wage jobs.

    “With low unemployment and a tight job market, companies are ready to hire today. Job Connector is helping to reduce the gap between the skills job seekers have and the skills employers need,” said Mohler.

    High Demand Jobs

    Research prepared for the Baltimore County Workforce Development Board identified nine key industries that will drive 75% of the job growth in Baltimore County over the next decade: Healthcare, Corporate Operations/Customer Service, Construction, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Federal Agencies, Port/Logistics/Distribution, Education, and Information Technology.

    Baltimore County’s American Job Centers at Liberty Center, Hunt Valley and Eastpoint have deployed customized tool kits to help career consultants guide job seekers to training and job openings in these high-demand fields.

    For more information go to baltimorecountymd.gov/jobconnector.

    Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:10:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/job-connector-in-communities-workforce-initiative-launches
  3. County Crews Stop Sewer Overflow in Cockeysville

    Approximately 37,500 Gallons Released into Beaverdam Run

    Baltimore County Department of Public Works has reported a sanitary sewer overflow of 37,500 gallons at the Texas Sewage Pumping Station, located at 10320 York Road in Cockeysville. The release began at 8:50 a.m. Tuesday and was stopped within eighteen minutes, at 9:08 a.m.

    The overflow occurred while crews were in the process of repairing a force main leading from the pumping station. The main was shut down Tuesday morning and the effluent routed through a pump-around so that repairs could be made. While testing the system, a joint split and the pump-around pipe discharged. The pipe material and the joints are being investigated.    

    The release went into a branch of Beaverdam Run, a tributary to the Loch Raven Reservoir. As a precaution, contact with the waters of the stream should be avoided. The Baltimore County Department of Health will issue water contact advisories when necessary on the Department's website:

    http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/health/environmentalhealth/watersampling/alertadvisory.html

    Tue, 19 Jun 2018 20:03:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/county-crews-stop-sewer-overflow-in-cockeysville
  4. We All Have A Role in Combating Opioid Abuse

    By Gregory Wm. Branch, M.D., MBA, CPE, FACP, Director, Baltimore County Department of Health and Human, Services          

    The opioid epidemic has a tight grip on communities across the country. In Baltimore County, we are employing an array of strategies to help save lives. While the Baltimore County Department of Health is leading these strategies, it is increasingly clear that we all have a role to play in the County’s R.E.A.C.H. effort.

    Recovery

    Meet people where they are

    The Department of Health provides specialists to help people navigate the steps to recovery. Our Certified Peer Recovery Specialists meet with clients, provide one-on-one training and assist with securing resources and services. They use caring, compassionate communication to connect with clients seeking help.

    Education

    Know what to do

    Overdose deaths involving fentanyl are rising at an alarming rate. We all need to become familiar with the dangers of fentanyl and learn what to do if we suspect acquaintances, family members or loved ones of being at risk. Baltimore County provides free overdose response training in locations across the County each month. These trainings teach what an opioid is, how to recognize, respond to and prevent an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone, the non-addictive medication that reverses the effects of opioids. Click here for training dates.

    Assessment

    Connect to services

    We work diligently to help people battling addiction get the help they need to recover. The County has walk-in assessment clinics at the Eastern Family Resource Center and the Liberty Family Resource Center. Screening assessments also are conducted at all substance abuse sites and Strategic Brief Intervention and Referral Treatment is implemented at school-based wellness centers across the County.

    Collaboration

    Know what is in your medicine cabinet

    Unused prescription drugs in the wrong hands can be lethal. Parents, grandparents and guardians must take inventory of what is in their medicine cabinets, secure all unexpired medications that are genuinely needed, and use drug drop boxes to safely dispose of those that are not. Drug drop boxes are located outside every Baltimore County police precinct and are always available. This is just one example of the County partnerships at work in our battle against substance misuse.

    HELP

    410-88-REACH

    If you or someone you know is fighting substance misuse issues, know that there is help. Baltimore County’s 410-88-REACH (410-887-3224) is our help line and the place to call to get information about available resources, referrals and to have your questions and concerns addressed. This help line is completely confidential and is answered by specialists Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – midnight. Online information for substance use and recovery services can also be found at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/41088REACH.

    Mon, 18 Jun 2018 20:38:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/we-all-have-a-role-in-combatting-opioid-abuse
  5. County Officials Highlight Hurricane and Flooding Preparedness

    Residents and Businesses Encouraged to Plan and Follow County Updates Online

    Baltimore County’s public safety and health officials conducted a hurricane preparedness exercise this morning in the Emergency Operations Center and outlined the County’s emergency preparedness, reminding residents and businesses to plan ahead in case of severe storms and flooding. Today’s exercise asked emergency operations representatives from County agencies and partner organizations to respond to a hypothetical hurricane similar to Isabel, which caused severe flooding in coastal Baltimore County in September of 2003.

    During the exercise, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler and the County’s top emergency management, public works and health leadership team outlined the County’s year-round storm preparations and recommendations for residents.

    Preparation is Key

    County officials encouraged people to have an emergency plan, prepare to get through three days without power, and stock up on water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries and back-up power sources for their cellphones. They suggested that residents check to see if they need flood insurance and to prepare in advance for medical and prescription needs and for pet care. More information about storm preparedness can be found on the County website at baltimorecountymd.gov/emergency.

    “We work to ensure that our first responders have the best equipment and training available and practice our coordinated response protocols multiple times each year,” said Mohler. “We are prepared and now is the time for residents and businesses to take some time to make sure they are prepared as well.”

    Real-time storm updates available on the County’s website and social media platforms

    Mohler reminded residents to follow the County’s Emergency Management Twitter feed, @BACOemergency, for storm warnings and updates on storm response, sheltering operations and more. “The recent extreme flooding in Ellicott City and Catonsville was an important wake-up call to all of us that these severe storms can pop up at any time and we all need to stay alert and be prepared to respond quickly,” he said.

    “Flash flooding is particularly dangerous and we do have areas all around the County that are susceptible to coastal and inland flooding, and it is very important for people to keep up with storm forecasts and connect online with our County emergency managers for storm response updates,” said County Council Chair Julian Jones.

    The County’s Stormfighter web page allows people to self-report storm-related issues. The system integrates with the County’s GIS mapping technology and provides real-time visual data to assist DPW and emergency managers in responding to severe storms or other localized or regional emergencies. Stormfighter provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which lists County roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. State roads and interstates are not included. Information on State roads can be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.state.md.us/incidents/index.php.   

    Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:40:00 GMThttps://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/News/BaltimoreCountyNow/county-officials-highlight-hurricane-and-flooding-preparedness
 
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County Executive Biography

The County Executive standing behind a podium.

Serving as Baltimore County’s thirteenth County Executive, Don Mohler was elected to fill the remaining term of Kevin Kamenetz who died on May 10, 2018. Mohler served as Chief of Staff to Kamenetz since 2010. Learn More.

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