HACKENSACK -- To provide public service in a cost effective and efficient manner continued this year to top Cass County goals for the coming year.
Not only did county department heads and commissioners set this goal Feb. 9 as the top priority, but so did representatives of cities, townships, schools and the soil and water conservation district who were invited to participate Feb. 7 in the county's annual planning retreat.
Both groups also set improving intergovernmental communication, cooperation and collaboration as the next most important goal, with improving overall long-range planning as the third priority.
The department heads and commissioners got more specific in their goal setting. They spent a half day brainstorming on ways to achieve their goals.
They concluded county government could be made more effective by offering staff members more computer and technology training classes.
A drop box outside the courthouse could be offered to enable the public to leave information and, possibly, make payments during non-business hours.
Interactive television use should be expanded to cut travel and training costs and save employee time away from work.
Public communications could be improved by expanding the county Web site, offering county employees customer service training and hiring a public information specialist.
Intergovernmental cooperation could be improved by expanding the county Web page, continuing meetings with neighboring counties and doing more joint county legislative lobbying and by providing more informational meetings for townships.
Long-range planning would improve if the county integrated its plans with other governments and assigned responsibilities for follow through.
Existing data should be analyzed to ensure housing and sewage disposal is adequate for the population.
Department heads and commissioners then proposed action plans to achieve these goals.
Computer use could be improved with better software applications and shortcuts, job specific programs, library use and classes offered to staff members at the courthouse.
Management information systems department, community and area college education programs, certified trainers, contracted teachers, existing staff members and 800 computer help line services would be tapped to improve county staff members' computer use.
Staff members would like to see these improvements within 60 days, but Commissioner Jim Demgen suggested the county personnel committee should review this first to determine costs, so it could be implemented affordably over a year.
To get a public drop box installed at the courthouse and/or other sites around the county, it first must be determined what would be accepted in the box and whether a secure site could be provided so money could be accepted in it.
Department heads and the county administrator will make this determination. The county mailroom probably will be in charge of distributing whatever is collected in the box to the appropriate department.
It is hoped the after hours box could be in use by this summer.
To offer more interactive television training, it first will be necessary to determine where around the state ITV training the county can use is offered and what costs might be.
It is hoped this can be accomplished by May 1.
Department heads should recommend to the county board in the next two months ways planning can be integrated. Extension service could solicit citizen interest in integrated planning by April.
If a county information officer were hired this year, that person could communicate the planning process to the public by August. An umbrella planning organization could be formed.
To improve the county Web site, a county staff work group should be formed by March to identify by July departmental needs for the Web site.
By the end of this year, there should be an improvement action plan presented to the county board for approval and a person hired to improve the Web site.
Existing employee training should be reviewed the first half of this year and additional training needs identified, so, with the help of a customer service consultant, an improved training program can be implemented before year-end.
The county administrator, county board and a contracted lobbyist all will play a part in improving Cass' cooperation with neighboring counties and a joint effort to improve legislative action for this part of the state.
Each county commissioner will be issued by March 1 a computer and cell phone, with e-mail service, by the management information systems department. Those not already online will be trained to use the equipment by March 31.
This way, each commissioner can be reached by the public, not only by mail and land based phone, but also by cell phone or e-mail.
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