Thursday, September 27, 2007

Looks like New Jersey can't stop BRAC from coming -- contract for lab complex awarded and 32 jobs coming this fall

A $477.5 million contract the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a Washington firm yesterday to build an an office and laboratory complex at Aberdeen Proving Ground could be the signal that disgruntled New Jersey officials can't stop BRAC from coming. The contract awarded to a joint venture called Tompkins- Turner Grunley/Kinsley, according to the Baltimore Sun, will allow preparations to start for the 5,000 jobs expected to relocate from Fort Monmouth to APG by 2011. An advance team of 32 from New Jersey are expected here sometime this fall.

According to the Sun story:

"New Jersey politicians have sought congressional action to block closure of the 90-year-old fort, and a union representing Monmouth workers filed a federal lawsuit. But the Asbury Park Press reported Wednesday that the union failed in a bid to get an injunction barring the Army from going forward with the construction of the new 'Center of Excellence' complex at Aberdeen."

In other BRAC news, ABC2News.com is reporting that Harford County's Health officer is concerned about the increased traffic BRAC will bring and how that might impact our health.
According to the website:

"Dr. Andrew Bernstein fears those people will get into cars, leading to more air pollution. He's advising county leaders to bring in additional mass transit."

"The location of communities next to large highways or major intersections - there's a direct relationship between that and rates of asthma in children," said Dr. Bernstein."

Good thought. But I'm betting it's going to be hard to keep these 5,000 or more folks out of their cars, asthma or no asthma. Unless, of course, they get that hovercraft up and running. That just might make the commute interesting enough to park and ride.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Harford County's water supply is an environmental issue to watch

The influx of some 30,000 new residents that are expected to come to Harford County in the next few years due to BRAC is likely to bring environmental issues to the fore. Our water supply is one that has been mentioned frequently. A story in Sunday's Baltimore Sun says that the water supply is already an issue this year:

"The prolonged dry spell and lower stream levels have forced suppliers of water to Bel Air and Edgewood Arsenal to switch from their systems to the county's in the past few weeks, while the supplier for Aberdeen Proving Ground plans to make the change as soon as tomorrow."

The story goes on to say that the water supply problem can be easily solved this year:

"We have the water available, but we are cautious,' said Joel Caudill, deputy director of the county Public Works Department. 'Had this happened earlier in the season, when customers were using more water, we may have had some problems.'"

However, with a surge of new residents expected, it's an issue to watch.

Want a BRAC job? Do better in math.

I've noticed a number of news organizations have picked up on the report released Friday by the Fort Meade Alliance that says the state is failing to prepare students to fill all the high-tech jobs BRAC will bring. According to WBAL's version of the story:

"Enrollment for bachelor's degrees in Maryland rose 24 percent between 1994 and 2004, but the number of students pursuing math, engineering and biological sciences dropped."

This is a problem because:

"According to the report, state officials estimate that there will be a 17 percent hike in engineering employment between 2004 and 2014, 'but that can only occur if there is a supply to meet demand.'"

I thought I'd point out that the news is not all dire. If you're preparing for a BRAC job, Harford Community College has in its non-credit class schedule for this fall nine classes dedicated to Homeland Protection & Security. But they're not cheap. You can learn to be a Certified Ethical Hacker in six sessions for $1,795. Or you can learn to be a Certified Information Systems Security Professional in 10 sessions for $1,295. You can learn CompTIA Security+ for $1,895. And if all that is too pricey, you can spring for the $89 Hazwoper 8-hour Annual Refresher. But seeing as these are all pretty expensive, you'd probably do better to do well in math, get a good job and let your company pay for your training.

BRAC town meeting draws residents concerned about crime, terrorism and jobs

Last Wednesday's BRAC town hall meeting filled the Edgewood High School auditorium with people interested in hearing the update on the BRAC Action Plan, according to a story in Friday's Aegis. Forty questions came from the audience, the story said, with some focusing on crime, terrorism and jobs. Officials told the audience that a relocation of the Harford Sheriff's Office's southern precinct should help ensure the Edgewood area gets proper coverage as it grows with BRAC. They are also talking about ways to deal with gangs. Officials assured the crowd that terrorism is usually more likely in big cities and ports, the story said. And APG civilians who don't want to move with their shifting jobs, might find help by visiting the Maryland Workforce Exchange site at https://mwe.dllr.state.md.us/brac/BracContent.asp. The story also said:

"George Mercer, public information officer for APG, said he's willing to work with these civilians, as well as personnel who may be leaving and who wish to sell their property to incoming APG employees."

I know a few people in my neighborhood who were hoping to do the same thing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Could telecommuting reduce the number of BRAC workers expected to move to Maryland even further?

A story in today's Baltimore Sun suggests that if the Army is willing to extend its limited practice of allowing some of its workers to telecommute, those unwilling to relocate from Fort Monmouth, N.J. might keep their jobs without having to move near Maryland. According to the story:

"Army officials are said to be considering allowing Fort Monmouth workers the option to telecommute, should their jobs move as scheduled to Aberdeen in Harford County. The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press reported last week that an internal survey of employees found only 25 percent willing to move, but that 55 to 60 percent would stay with their jobs if given the option to work either from home or from a telecommuting center in New Jersey."

Click here to read the story.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Maybe Harford County won't be getting quite so many BRAC jobs

A story in Sunday's Baltimore Sun reports that there's a new study out that says Harford County will likely get 3,500 fewer jobs than expected when the BRAC relocation process is completed. The 19,000 jobs for Harford predicted in the study by Sage Policy Group Inc., a Baltimore economic consulting firm, is still a big increase for the county. But the study says it expects the strong office market already available in Baltimore County will attract a lot of companies there. James C. Richardson, Harford County's economic development director, told the Sun Harford County had earlier expected 22,500 jobs. But no one really knows what's going to happen until the jobs start coming and we see how many end up spilling into Cecil County and even Pennsylvania and Delaware. Other findings the story cited from the study include:

• The public school population in the seven-county area will grow by nearly 11,000 students, with the largest increase -- 4,624 -- in Harford County.

• BRAC-related households will have average incomes of $109,000.

• About 86 percent of the people coming to the region will live in owner-occupied houses, and the average home price is estimated at $400,000.

• State gross tax receipts will be boosted by $113 million a year by 2017.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Completion of enviromental study clears way for bids to go out on BRAC construction projects at APG

According to a Baltimore Sun story: Now that the environmental impact study has been completed and approved, demolition and construction can get started at Aberdeen Proving Ground in preparation for the estimated 8,200 jobs to relocate there from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey by 2011. The story says building is expected to start next year and the approval clears the way for bids to go out on the $800 million worth of construction projects. According to the story:

"The first phase of construction will include upgrades to infrastructure and the razing of several aging buildings, many of them former barracks converted into offices."


"During the next four years, the APG will add as many as 8,000 jobs on base and thousands more military, civilian and contractor positions on its periphery. The expansion could bring more than 30,000 people to Harford County, officials said."

The environmental study reviewed the base's impact on traffic and cultural resources as well as:

"... studies of noise pollution, air and water quality, plant and animal life and cultural resources - all reviewed by officials at the Maryland Department of the Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency..."