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Commission on Excellence Releases Final Report

Publish Date: 02/04/2014
 

Annapolis, MD (February 4, 2014) – Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman today released the findings of the Commission on Excellence, a citizen group established to conduct a top-to-bottom review of Anne Arundel County government operations. The Commission was established by County Executive Neuman shortly after being named County Executive. As part of County Executive Neuman’s commitment to an open and transparent government, the Commission’s role was to review the operations, policies, procedures and processes of every county department.

 

“What I learned early on was that we were as much as 20 years behind in some of our processes and technology, and that inefficiency costs taxpayers dollars,” said County Executive Neuman. “I wanted this group to have complete, unfettered access to every department, every manager and our employees to determine what we are doing well, identify areas that need improvement and help to determine where we could find cost savings to benefit taxpayers. The group put in long hours and they were very detailed in their findings. The one thing that they all agreed on is that we have a dedicated group of employees in Anne Arundel County who care about their jobs and the citizens they serve,” County Executive Neuman added.


The Commission on Excellence was made up of 45+ citizens from neighborhoods throughout Anne Arundel County. The group possessed a variety of professional backgrounds, skills and experience. The members were organized into six teams with each team assigned to review 3-4 county departments. The teams conducted a series of thorough interviews with the departments’ management and staff, collected and analyzed information about the departments’ programs and processes, and compared the departments with their peers in other Maryland counties, when applicable. 

 

Each team submitted a written report of their findings, and presented their recommendations in person to the County Executive, Chief Administrative Officer, and each department head.

 

The reports identified a number of strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to improve efficiency across all areas of county government. They identified best practices and recommended actions to increase productivity and budget savings. While many of the recommendations were specific to an individual department, a number of common themes were reflected in the Commission’s reports. To download the full report click here.


Central themes:


Technology – Whether it’s applying for a building permit, reserving a field for a youth sports league, or reporting a pothole in need of repair, the county’s current processes are often paper-based and time-intensive.  Residents need to be able to interact with the county in ways that are more convenient and require less effort. Technology solutions will enable many of these processes to be brought online.

 

People – With many long-time employees nearing retirement, the county faces challenges in maintaining the skilled workforce needed to provide services to the community. While the county has traditionally relied heavily on internal training, alternative solutions are needed.  The county should better leverage local resources such as Anne Arundel Community College to develop training and certification programs specifically for county government careers.

 

Processes – Processes which are duplicated between departments create unnecessary costs.  Consolidating the county’s maintenance garage operations, centralizing the management of county office space, and partnering with other jurisdictions when purchasing large equipment (county vehicles, police cars, and fire trucks for example) offer opportunities for reducing the costs to taxpayers.

 

Specific recommendations:

Countywide   

  • Develop a unified Strategic Plan with long term goals, objectives, and performance indicators for all county departments.
  •  Implement cross-training programs and document succession plans for all positions.
  • Expand partnerships with Anne Arundel Community College and vocational technical schools to develop training and certification programs for county government careers.
  • Update customer service/communication capabilities on all county department websites.                                                              

Office of Administrative Hearings

  • Create public, searchable internet access to hearing records.
  • Revise the County Code to authorize the Director of Planning and Zoning to grant routine, minor variances after notice to surrounding property owners, if no objection received.

Office of Law

  • Upgrade current computer hardware and case management software in order to minimize advantages in technology capabilities by opposing counsel.
  • Design a standard hardware and software package for document scanning, storage, and search/retrieval.     
Office of Personnel
  • Automate Human Resources Information System processes, replacing all manual paper forms for new/current employees with online versions. 
  • Outsource leadership training and develop a certification process for personnel management and staff.             

Office of Budget

  • Require greater involvement of department heads in review of budget vs. actual results.
  • Create incentives for departments to come in under budget, or for submitting a lower budget than in the previous year.                                                            
Office of Central Services
  • Consolidate the following operations under Fleet Maintenance:  Public Works Landfill Garage, Public Works Utilities Garage, Public Works Highway Garage, Parks and Recreation Garage, and the Fire Department Garage. 
  • Develop a long-term strategic plan for space management and vehicle utilization.                                         
Office of Finance
  • Establish a formal feedback mechanism to ensure the concerns of customers are heard and addressed.
  • Develop standardized ROI projection for future technology investments. 

Department of Public Works

  • Upgrade current computer hardware to permit the department to use software packages specifically designed for public works operations, including the ability to interface with private sector engineering firms.
  • Update the DPW website to allow residents to enter new issues (work requests or concerns), review the status of previously submitted issues, and check for work being performed in or near their neighborhoods.

Anne Arundel County Public Library

  • Fully integrate the department with the county IT network.
  • Expand use of marketing partnerships with local businesses in order to cost effectively promote library programs. 
Office of Information Technology
  • Increase the department’s training budget from $25K to $50K.
  • Expand flexibility of the department to use contract employees on a project by project basis.
Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation
  • Institute a measurement system to determine the cost/benefit of existing programs, to identify when certain programs may no longer be relevant.
  • Expand database of existing county businesses.                                                    

Department of Inspections & Permits

  • Acquire software for online, integrated permit application, tracking, and approval.
  • Require digital submission of plans, and replace hard copy storage with electronic storage.
Office of Planning & Zoning
  • Acquire software to enable digital submission of plans and online tracking of a project’s status.
  • Implement a fast track process for smaller projects such as single family homes, if specific criteria are met.
Department of Aging & Disabilities
  • Expand countywide marketing efforts through partnerships with local businesses.
  • Upgrade phone and computer systems to better match workflow requirements.
Department of Health
  • Perform a global IT needs assessment.
  • Prioritize the transition to electronic record-keeping.                                                             

Department of Recreation and Parks

  • Acquire updated software for handling scheduling, billing and registration of county fields.
  • Seek accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies.
Department of Social Services
  • Enable online donations.
  • Update website to reflect information on current programs.                                                              

 Department of Detention Facilities

  • Upgrade the video security recording system throughout the Department.
  • Undertake a compensation study of the Police Department, Department of Corrections, and Sheriff’s Office to ensure salary ranges are consistent across comparable positions, and to address salary compression issues between pay grades.

Fire Department

  • Combine the emergency dispatch and communications systems for the Fire and Police departments into one joint communications center.
  • Reassign uniformed firefighters and officers to positions in the field.  Staff administrative, non-emergency, and non-hazardous duty positions with civilian personnel.
  • Fund the position of County Medical Director as a full-time, paid position.
  • Separate Paramedic and Firefighter functions to better align training requirements with positional needs.
Police Department
  • Combine the emergency dispatch and communications systems for the Fire and Police departments into one joint communications center.
  • Undertake a compensation study of the Police Department, Department of Corrections and Sheriff’s Office to ensure salary ranges are consistent across comparable positions, and to address salary compression issues between pay grades.

Following the release of the Commission on Excellence findings, Chief Administrative Officer Karen Cook will begin prioritizing the Commission’s recommendations and developing an implementation schedule based on a phased-in approach. The Commission on Excellence team members have the option of remaining in an advisory capacity and will receive periodic status updates on the progress of the implemented recommendations. 


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