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Dell Deal

Cash-strapped House offices in need of new computer equipment are about to get a little bit of relief.

[IMGCAP(1)]In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to Members on Thursday afternoon, the House Administration Committee officially announced approval of the “Dell Blanket Purchase Agreement,” which gives Member and committee offices a 20 percent to 30 percent discount on products purchased directly from Dell.

Offices aren’t required to buy products from Dell, and nobody is prohibited from buying computers from other companies, according to the letter. But the Dear Colleague notes that the chamber spent more than $3 million on Dell products in 2007, meaning that about $1 million will be saved if the same amount is spent this year.

“We understand the tremendous pressure on Member offices to maximize purchases made under the MRA,” said

committee spokesman Kyle Anderson, referring to the Members’ Representational Allowances.

Chief Administrative Officer and House Administration officials will host two seminars today designed to help staffers better understand the Dell program. Both seminars — the first starts at 10:30 a.m., the second at 1:30 p.m. — will be held in Room 1310 of the Longworth House Office Building.

House identification will be required to gain entrance, but no registration is needed.

Child Care Concerns. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) introduced a measure on Wednesday that would allow House offices to reimburse employees for child care expenses.

The new program would be run by the Chief Administrative Officer. Under the program, House employees with children at the House Child Care Center or any day care center regulated by the federal, state or local government can be reimbursed for expenses “incurred while the employees are carrying out official duties,” according to the legislation.

There is a spending cap — no more than 2 percent of the amount available for salaries and expenses of the employing office can be used for the reimbursement. That amount could be reduced further if any money is going to help staffers repay their student loans.

But payments wouldn’t come from employing offices themselves — the CAO would run a central account to fund the reimbursements.

CAO Dan Beard supports the bill, according to a spokesman. “The CAO feels this bill would establish a cost-effective way to provide assistance to all House employees who have child care needs, including those in district offices, regardless of their income,” CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse. The Architect of the Capitol officially launches a new recycling initiative today that lets staffers place all paper products into a single bin.

AOC officials will begin delivering the new paper bins to Member and committee offices today, replacing old containers that required staffers to separate paper into the categories of “high grade,” “mixed” and “newspaper.”

The AOC also will begin providing separate bins for offices interested in taking part in the House’s food waste composting program.

All House cafeterias now feature the composting bins, which allow people to recycle the chamber’s compostable dishware and utensils. The new bins, which will be provided for offices who ask for them, will allow staffers who bring their lunch back to their office to take part in the composting program.

Award Season. The Capitol Power Plant’s West Refrigeration Plant Expansion Project is the 2007 winner of the Construction Management Association of America’s Project Achievement Award, the Architect of the Capitol announced Friday.

Given in the category of “projects with a construction value of less than $100 million,” the award recognizes achievement in construction management, looking specifically at project outcomes, safety, quality, cost and schedule management, project complexity, innovation and customer satisfaction.

The expansion of the nearly 100-year-old power plant is designed to meet the future cooling needs of the Capitol complex, particularly after the Capitol Visitor Center opens in November. It also is expected to increase the overall efficiency of the plant.

The National Garden at the Botanic Garden also was recognized with an honorable mention in the category of “project with construction value of less than $50 million.”

Another Honor. The AOC isn’t the only agency that got kudos last week.

The Office of Personnel Management presented Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard with a certificate of excellence on March 10 for scoring top marks on OPM’s 2008 Organizational Assessment Survey.

More than 500 CAO employees took the 123-question survey in January, answering questions designed to measure whether the organization functions effectively. Survey topics included training and career development, communication, employee involvement, rewards and recognition, use of resources and performance management.

The CAO scored higher than any other organization in the areas of “Customer Orientation,” “Supervision” and “Innovation.”

OPM isn’t the only group praising the CAO; Washingtonian Magazine recently honored the agency as one of the area’s “Best Places to Work.”

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