Tag Archives: Virginia

New U.S. rocket blasts off from Virginia launch pad

Source: Irene Klotz, Reuters, April 22, 2013

A privately owned rocket built in partnership with NASA to haul cargo to the International Space Station blasted off on Sunday for a debut test flight from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia…. Orbital Sciences and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, hold NASA contracts worth a combined $3.5 billion to fly cargo to the space station, a $100 billion research outpost that flies about 250 miles above Earth. NASA turned to commercial suppliers after retiring the space shuttles in 2011….
Related:
Virginia Takes Steps in Space Privatization With ‘Spaceport’ Partnership
Source: Bary Alyssa Johnson, Latinos Post, September 18, 2012

Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the Virginia Commonwealth Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation have reached a new level of agreement in terms of their allocation of assets as well as working relationship at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). As part of an agreement inked in 2008, Orbital and the VCSFA partnered so that Orbital could develop improvements to the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS to assist in launches of Orbital’s Antares rocket….

…Among the terms of the new agreement announced Monday, Orbital and the VCSFA have come to the following agreements: Orbital will launch ten Antares missions from MARS, including one test flight, one demonstration flight and eight resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). In order to support the Antares missions and bring in potential future customers, the Commonwealth will bankroll the improvements at MARS. The VCFSA will own and operate non-Antares-specific assets that can be used by future customers…

Related:
Space Industry Growing In Virginia
Source: Sabri Ben-Achour, WAMU, September 22, 2011

The Mid-Atlantic region isn’t widely known for its space industry, but that may soon change. With the end of NASA’s shuttle program, a new age for space flight has opened up opportunities for area companies. “Most people think of this area as being dominated by the government, and here we are building spacecraft just outside the beltway,” says Keith Davies, a vehicle manager for Orbital Sciences…

NASA, the military, and the intelligence services are all using the private space sector. That’s brought several hundred jobs to Virginia already. But for this region’s space industry to take off, it will also have to attract the very nascent commercial crew business — space tourism.

Virginia begins issuing debit cards — bearing possible fees — for tax refunds

Source: Tom Jackman, Washington Post, April 14, 2013

It’s national Tax Day on Monday, when many taxpayers turn their thoughts to the refund checks they’re expecting sometime in the next few weeks. But in Virginia this year, the state stopped issuing tax refund checks, instead sending the money to individual bank accounts via direct deposit or offering a debit card with the refund on it. Yes, there’s a catch: As with all debit cards, there can be fees. Fees for cash withdrawals. Fees for balance inquiries. Fees for phone calls to ask how to make cash withdrawals or balance inquiries. A fee for not using the card. Sixteen different types of fees in all. This has prompted some upset Virginians to ask: Why am I being charged a fee to collect my tax refund?…

…The cards are administered by Xerox, and Virginia tax officials say the program is saving the commonwealth about $200,000, the cost of printing and mailing tax refund checks every year. Xerox is not charging Virginia for the debit-card service, but the company is pocketing the fees. Money from a refund debit card can be withdrawn all at once or deposited into a bank account, once, without incurring a fee, which is how the card is designed to be used. The card can also be used at retail outlets without charge. But withdrawing cash from an ATM with the card costs $2.50 each time if the ATM is not part of the Money Pass network and costs $2.50 per time after the first Money Pass ATM use. The first two calls to Xerox to clear up problems with the card are free, but after that, it’s $2 per call. If the card is inactive for six months, there is a $3 per month inactivity fee. …Xerox’s Way2Go Card is used for various purposes by 25 states and the federal government, Wasmer said. …

Low-Bid Process For Silver Line Phase II May Foster Hidden Costs

Source: Martin Di Caro, WAMU, April 11, 2013

…After receiving the bids next Friday, MWAA will announce the winner in May. Preliminary work is scheduled to begin later this year with a target of 2018 for completion of the Silver Line to Dulles and beyond into Loudoun County. Some of the biggest names in the construction industry are competing for the Phase II contract, including the firm Bechtel that is building Phase I. The lowest bidder wins Phase II…

…Any number of issues can push a megaproject over budget, but the low-bid procurement process is particularly troublesome, critics say, because it entices a contractor to submit an artificially low bid with the intention of requesting change orders to drive up a project’s final cost, paid for by the project’s owner and into the contractor’s pockets. In the case of the Silver Line, the owner is MWAA….Change orders usually occur in one of three ways: the project owner requests the change and then pays the contractor to include it; an unexpected problem arises in the construction process requiring a change for the project to proceed safely; or the contractor requests a change order from the owner. In the latter case, MWAA would have to approve any change orders that are requested by the general contractor…

Editorial: Road repairs show lack of oversight

Source: Virginian-Pilot, March 26, 2013

…The most visible push for privatization in the commonwealth can be seen on our roads, where maintenance and construction have usually gone to the lowest bidder. …

…Recent episodes on the highways of Hampton Roads show that privatization doesn’t necessarily save money; in fact, it can be much more expensive. Work by the Virginia Department of Transportation has been so wobbly in recent months that it needs, and will likely be subjected to, a strong audit of its performance and decision-making. Some of those decisions concerned oversight of TME Enterprises, the private contractor responsible for the maintenance of the region’s highways. The company came under fire after potholes on Interstate 264 and 64 caused hundreds of blown tires on Feb. 8. As The Pilot’s Dave Forster reported, until then, VDOT officials had been giving the company favorable reviews on its work….

…In earlier reporting, Forster found that VDOT, in an attempt to reduce its monthly payments, eliminated mowing, sweeping and litter removal from its contract with TME, billing them separately. “However, from 2010 through 2012,” Forster reported, “the change ended up costing the state about $1 million more than the roughly $2.2 million it saved from the reduced contract price, according to TME’s invoices.”…

Virginia Port Authority will not privatize most of its port operations

Source: Associated Press, March 26, 2013

The Virginia Port Authority on Tuesday rejected two offers worth billions of dollars to privatize the operations of the state’s coastal terminals, choosing to keep and restructure the port’s current operator instead….The board’s decision makes it the second time in five years the state has opted not to privatize its port operations, rejecting three offers in 2009….
Related:
Pro ports privatization group accused of campaign finance violation
Source: Michael Welles Shapiro, Daily Press, April 3, 2013
A group that produced robocalls promoting the now-sunk port privatization efforts was accused of campaign finance violations by a watchdog group in Washington for election-season TV ads in Ohio. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, or CREW, filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commissions against the group, Checks and Balances for Economic Growth, a tax-exempt 501(c)(4)…CREW’s complaint says both ads were meant to influence an election and because CBEG’s spending went way beyond a $10,000 limit for such communications it triggered a federal requirement that the group report its expenditures to the FEC.

Pro-privatization robocall blasts ports executive
Source: Michael Welles Shapiro, Daily Press, February 6, 2013

A robocall aiming to convince listeners to support a privatization of Virginia’s ports began circulating as early as Monday. In addition to advocating for a management change at the state-run terminals, the script blasts an outgoing top port executive, calling him overpaid.

The call – which according to its script is authorized by Checks and Balances for Economic Growth – comes almost two months before the Virginia Port Authority board is scheduled to make a key determination about whether to accept a proposal from APM Terminals or a consortium led by JPMorgan IIF Acquisitions LLC. And it comes as state lawmakers are considering intervening to delay that decision. …

…It also seems to suggest that a privatization would mean the end of a unionized workforce at the port, which is a fallacy. Federal rules and a East Coast-wide long-term labor contract ensure union jobs in container shipping, and neither private proposer has said their bids would change in any way the hiring of union dockworkers….

State releases proposals on port privatization
Source: Alex Bridges, nvdaily.com, August 23, 2012

Three vie for port privatization
Source: Matthew Ward, Suffolk News Herald, August 15, 2012

Virginia has received two alternative proposals to APM’s unsolicited bid to take over the state’s port operations, Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton has stated. In an email, Connaughton also said that the state does not plan to publicly name the alternative bidders, or detail their proposals, until an Aug. 22 briefing to the Virginia Port Authority Board. Meanwhile, the Virginia Maritime Association, representing over 400 companies connected to the shipping industry, has expressed concern that privatizing the port could result in a damaging monopoly….

..According to the resolution, the association is also concerned that a private company could divert trade from Virginia to other ports “for its own financial benefit, regardless of the impact it would have on the Port of Virginia and the economy of the Commonwealth.”…

…Under its proposal, APM, a subsidiary of Danish shipping giant Maersk, would pay state and local taxes and fund capital improvements at the terminals, including a major expansion of APM Terminals Virginia, ownership of which the company would also turn over to the state. The deal is worth up to an estimated $3.9 billion to the state over 48 years….

Transportation Public-Private Partnerships: Challenges of Transparency and Accountability

Source: Wendell Carrier Lawther, PA Times, March 18, 2013

Many recent studies and reports identify a huge backlog of infrastructure projects that need to be completed in the United States. One example of this backlog is estimated by the American Civil Engineering Society who projects that three trillion dollars per year will be needed to fix all of the bridges and roadways, as well as build new, needed infrastructure to lessen traffic congestion and ease the movement of goods and people. The issue facing public policymakers is how to pay for these needs, especially at a time when the total debt of U.S. state and local governments is estimated at $7.3 trillion. Compounding the challenges is the still widely accepted feeling that “roads are free,” along with public recognition that congestion is a problem, but no alternative revenue source—e.g. gasoline tax, vehicle miles traveled tax, or tolls—to pay for solving this problem is widely accepted….

Va. won’t privatize sex offender treatment program / Two companies sought to run Burkeville center

Source: Associated Press, March 17, 2013

Virginia has rejected unsolicited bids by two companies to operate a state facility that detains violent sex offenders for treatment after their sentences are completed.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that state officials who evaluated the proposals concluded that GEO Group, a private prisons operator based in Boca Raton, Fla., focused too much on incarceration and not enough on treatment. Liberty Healthcare Corp. of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., scored better on treatment but would have charged the state $2.4 million a year more than it is spending to run the facility itself….The state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services received the GEO and Liberty proposals in 2011 under a 2002 Virginia law authorizing public-private partnerships….
Related:
Va. approaches decision on privatizing sex offender program
Source: Siddhartha Mahanta, American Independent, June 25, 2012

The nation’s second-largest private prison company says it expects Virginia to make a decision by next month on its bid to expand and operate the state’s detention facility for sexually violent predators who have completed their prison terms…. In this case, the facility that GEO wants to run is the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, a civil commitment center that houses and treats “sexually violent predators” who have already completed criminal sentences in a department of corrections facility but are deemed by a special court to be at risk of re-offending…. GEO Care — a GEO subsidiary that operates an array of psychiatric, civil commitment, reentry, and juvenile detention facilities, and also provides prison health care — submitted an unsolicited bid to operate VCBR….

Corizon Awarded Virginia DOC Contract

Source: Corizon News, March 11, 2013

Corizon, the nation’s leader in correctional healthcare solutions, has been awarded a new healthcare contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections. The agreement is for two years, with five optional one-year extensions, and was won through a competitive bid process….The new contract will begin May 1, 2013. Corizon’s team will deliver comprehensive medical, mental health, pharmacy and support services to approximately 15,000 inmates across the state….

New York announces $2.4 million settlement in overcharging scheme / Company will reimburse hundreds of state and local government entities

Source: Larry Conley, American City and County, January 18, 2013

Nearly 1,000 New York government entities will receive a check for overcharges as part of a $2.4 million settlement with one of the nation’s largest medical waste disposal companies. Under the agreement, Stericycle, Inc., will fully reimburse New York police and fire departments, schools, hospitals, prisons and other entities for a scheme to charge automated price increases without notice and in violation of contract terms. … Government entities affected by the overcharges are located throughout New York. Some entities receiving the largest compensation include the WF Bruen Rescue Squad, Rensselaer, $26, 671.16; Albany Sheriff’s Correctional, $22,160.28; Broome Community College, Binghamton, $13,966.86; Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora, $21,094.35; and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, $9,409.46. …
Related:
Lawsuit: Stericycle systematically overcharged governmental agencies
Source: Jeremy Carroll, Waste & Recycling News, January 8, 2013

Stericycle Inc. systematically overcharged governmental agencies throughout the country, including the federal government, a whistleblower lawsuit alleges. The suit, first filed in 2008 in Illinois, was unsealed Jan. 8. Former employee Jennifer Perez is named as a plaintiff, along with 14 states, the federal government and the District of Columbia. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alluded to the lawsuit after he announced a $2.4 million settlement against the Lake Forest, Ill.-based medical waste giant Jan. 8. …

From the lawsuit:
Stericycle is a company that collects and disposes of medical waste throughout the United States. Stericycle has defrauded federal, state and local governments by knowingly or recklessly overcharging its governmental customers and by withholding accurate pricing data from its customers when it agrees to pick up medical waste. Stericycle tails to inform its customers that despite the contract price it has agreed to, Stericycle intends to and adds unallowable surcharges to each bill, in addition to an undisclosed 18% across the board increase every 9 months. Stericycle conceals its intent to add these increases to each bill because it knows governmental customers would never agree to them if disclosed in advance.

Virginia Legislature Mulls P3 Oversight

Source: Kyle Glazier, Bond Buyer, January 9, 2013

The Virginia General Assembly will decide whether to grant itself more oversight over privatizing the state’s port facilities, as well as several other bond-related questions, during the short legislative session that convened this week. … Purkey has said long-term privatization deals approaching 50 years in length, as the commonwealth is contemplating, do not provide fair value for the public assets. Purkey’s House Bill 1334 would require the legislature to approve any change in port ownership, instead of allowing the governor and the Virginia Port Authority to make the decision, as is the case now.