The National Association of Counties (NACo) has selected Crow Wing County for two National Achievement Awards. In its 43rd year of recognizing innovative achievements among counties across the nation, Crow Wing County achieved the awards for its consolidation of five departments into a single Land Services Department and for its major revision of the county’s land use ordinance. In a letter to the County announcing the national awards, NACo Executive Director Larry Naake wrote that the awards “recognize your county’s hard work to promote quality, efficient, and responsive management and administration.”
Acknowledging the significance of the national awards, Crow Wing County Board Chair Doug Houge said, “We are honored to be recognized nationally for our common-sense innovations that have improved services to our customers and made our programs more effective, while reducing spending at the same time. This shows government at the local level can do more with less, and it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our outstanding staff.”
The County Board, in 2008, consolidated five separate departments – Planning and Zoning, Solid Waste, Lands, Survey and the Assessor’s Office – into a single land services department. One Department head – the Land Services Director – administers the operations of the five former departments, supervising three Land Service Supervisors who manage the program areas of Environmental Services, Public Land Management and Property Valuation and Classification. The primary goals of the consolidation were to improve customer service and coordination among land‐related programs and staff. These goals were accomplished at the same time budget challenges required a restructuring of programs and services resulting in a reduction of $3.4 million in spending and 18 FTEs, including reducing the number of supervisory positions from 8 to 5.
“The County Board established a clear vision, and our staff did an excellent job of implementing their policy, said Mark Liedl, Land Services Director. “From the County Administrator to our staff out in the field, this was truly a team effort.”
The county’s second national award was for its substantial and unprecedented overhaul of its Land Use Ordinance. The new ordinance establishes innovative performance standards as a regulatory approach to protecting natural resources in the Brainerd Lakes area. Central to these site-specific performance standards are requirements for managing storm water runoff on individual riparian lots based on the levels of impervious surface of each lot. With 79 fewer pages than the previous law, the new ordinance also rooted out repetition, ambiguities and gaps in the previous ordinance, making it more reader-friendly to ordinary citizens. Ineffective, unnecessary regulations also were eliminated. The ordinance revision process embraced a unique public comment process established by the County Board in 2008. Over 140 days, more than 100 written comments were submitted by a broad spectrum of interested citizens. The process also included an innovative collaboration with state officials and private sector land use experts.