County Department Wins Five National Awards!
Five Collin County departments received national recognition in July for innovations, efficiency and cost savings when it came to putting tax dollars to work. The National Association of Counties (NACo) cited Health Care Services, Public Works, the Budget Department’s Court Collections Unit, Human Resources and Information Technology for 2009 Achievement Awards.
Collin County Health Care Services Partnership with Retail Clinic
The county’s Health Care Services Department needed to find an economically sound solution to tackle the challenge of more and more people needing assistance with medical costs in a turbulent financial climate without abandoning its mission to “protect and promote the health of the people of Collin County.”
The program allows eligible county residents undergo a streamlined application process to access flexible health care options for preventative and urgent care services. Since January 2007, more than 3,500 patients benefited from the PrimaCare Program at an average cost of $115 per visit. As the number of clients continues to grow, this innovative program clearly illustrates Collin County’s success in ‘raising the bar’ to serve its indigent population’s health care needs.
50 Miles-Per-Year Asphalt Program
The 50 Miles-Per-Year Asphalt Program’s goal was to pave every mile of Collin County road within 10 years. The county’s swift transition from a rural scattering of farming communities to a major urban and suburban center made it necessary to develop a road upgrade program as fast as possible.
Though the 50-Mile program is a significantly vast expansion of past Public Works road upgrade programs, it had to be integrated into existing Public Works department responsibilities and commitments at no additional costs.
In the previous ten years before this program went into effect, an average of 14 miles of county road per year was upgraded. Using the same funds as in those years, Public Works’ 50-Mile program has upgraded 201 miles of road in the last four years, despite major interruptions – and a few natural disasters such as the 2007 floods. All this continues to be accomplished without increasing existing Public Works resources or funding.
Collection Unit Turns Unfunded Mandate Into Court Partnership
The county’s Court Collection Unit opened for business in April 2007 for all six County Courts at Law after new legislation required counties with a population of 250,000 or more to develop a stricter collection plan for criminal court costs and fines in misdemeanor courts.
Counties were required to focus on increasing revenue from criminal court costs and fines, which would ultimately provide more funding to the state and local coffers. A stricter collection program would also help enforce and monitor all court-ordered payments.
Collin County not only met the critical components of the collection model set forth by the state’s Office of Court Administration, but exceeded expectations by streamlining the collection process through innovative technology and software, cutting the term of payment agreements by almost 30 months, and increasing collections by up to 40 percent.
Emergency Communications Committee Fiber Project
Our Information Technology Department needed to solve how to expand citizen services, increase communications to support continued growth and user demand without breaking the taxpayer bank.
The IT Department set out to reduce the overall recurring cost of what had grown to more than two dozen T-1 communications lines by using fiber optics. But to do that, we needed 124 miles of optic line to connect all of our facilities – something that would cost $3.5 million.
Instead, they discovered that Collin County College had 84 miles of fiber available. A sharing agreement saved about $1.2 million of taxpayer dollars and eliminated about $330,000 in annual costs to buy and maintain T-1 lines. Once the project was complete, other cities and independent school districts in Collin County came on board, thanks to a $326,000 grant.
Sheriff’s Office Temporary Pool
Many county departments have struggled to meet the demands of a fast-growing population without increasing staff or overtime costs. One such area was the Sheriff’s Office Detention Facility.
When the Collin County Detention Facility recently installed a Video Visitation Program designed to provide a method for family and friends to visit with inmates by using video cameras and a telephone. The number of visitors fluctuated, especially on weekends and holidays, and the program operated with a very small civilian staff. But when a member of the staff was absent, it placed an undue burden on the remainder of department resulting in expensive overtime.
To meet the needs of the Sheriff’s Office in a cost-effective manner, Human Resources developed its own pool of screened and trained temporary employees to meet this fluctuating, sporadic need while reducing overtime costs. Since this temporary worker pool began, overtime costs for the Video Visitation area have decreased significantly.