County Programs Recognized As Best
Practices By TCSA During Conference
This year’s annual conference saw the presentation of another round of County Success Story Awards. Since 2014, the Tennessee County Services Association has made time at its annual awards banquet to celebrate just a few of the accomplishments of county government during the previous year. Nominations are submitted by county officials, consultants who work with county government and association staff members throughout the year.
“I’m glad we’re able to do this” commented TCSA Director David Connor. “I don’t know who said it first, but it’s true that when government makes a mistake, it’s on the front page. When they do something right, it may not be reported at all. It’s important to take time to recognize both large and small successes. My hope is, by spotlighting some of these projects, other counties find a solution to a problem they share or get inspired to share their own successes.”
The awards are intended to recognize an innovative solution to a problem, a sustained pattern of excellence in governance, a best practice that increased efficiency in the delivery county services or resulted in significant savings to taxpayers, a new approach or the use of new technology to deliver services, or improved cooperation or coordination between county offices or local governments that resulted in enhanced delivery of services.
The following projects were 2017 County Success Story Winners.
Lonas Young Park
A location in Campbell County on TVA owned land at the tail waters of Norris Lake had been an eye sore and a nuisance for years. The area was a continuous dumping site and an illegal camp site for meth production. One citizen who lived in that area, Lonas Young, had a dream to transform the property. Taking up his idea, Campbell County commissioners presented it to TVA. Campbell County applied for and received a grant from TDEC, which, together with funding from TVA, paid for the creation of the park. The project cost approximately $1.6 million. Through the hard work of members of the Campbell County Commission, TDEC, TVA and others, Mr. Young’s dream has come true and the people of Campbell County are proud of this location that was once an eye sore.
The park sits on a beautiful peninsula and features:
0.5 mile paved walking trail
Little league baseball field
Large lakeside pavilion
Two swimming beach areas
Two tennis courts
Picnic tables and benches
Three TWRA boat ramps
EMS ambulance Station
Two fishing docks
Future planned improvements include 20 recreational vehicle campsites and a senior citizen workout park.
TCAT Center - Franklin County
Leaders in Franklin County had tried for years to get a satellite Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus established in the county. They saw their hard work come to fruition this year through cooperation from numerous state and local government offices. Ground-breaking occurred on June 20 on an 8.5-acre tract of land adjacent to the former Franklin County High School that was donated by the Board of Education. In addition to the land donated by the school board, the Franklin County Commission budgeted $1 million towards the project. Franklin County leaders expect the facility to provide needed technical training to county citizens for many years.
Earlier this year, officials including State Sen. Janice Bowling, TCAT President Ivan Jones, school board member Christine Hopkins, County Mayor Richard Stewart, Lorie Fisher, with the South Central Development District; former TCAT Vice Chancellor James King and CDBG Director Kent Archer met in Mayor Stewart’s office to submit the application for a State of Tennessee Community Development Block Grant close to $5 million. The mayor received a letter of approval for the grant on June 14.
The satellite campus will offer six vocational-technical courses that were identified as being in the highest in demand in the region. These include:
• Industrial maintenance,
• Machine tool technology,
• Welding technology,
• Computer information technology,
• A licensed practical nursing class and
• A certified nursing assistance class.
The cooperation, commitment and contributions of many state and local officials were all critical in seeing this project come to fruition.
Committee - Giles County
Giles County has initiated a volunteer subcommittee of commissioners, which invites public input and suggestions, to brainstorm how to best make use of taxpayer dollars through either new or expanded initiatives or through cost reductions. The committee seeks out ideas to enhance tax collections or reduce operating expenses. For the county, the results of these meetings help with strategic planning initiatives and identify those areas where future investment would be most worthwhile.
The subcommittee began with 33 submissions and evaluated each one as to how easy or difficult they might be to accomplish. The subcommittee considered the projected return on investment and what resources would be needed to accomplish the goal. The ideas were generated through research of other counties’ or states’ successes, experiences of the participants, TCSA trade show symposiums and vendors, discussions with department heads, as well as public input.
Having an established meeting for this purpose gave county commissioners an opportunity to take a pause from the ongoing business of the county and be proactive in finding solutions. The subcommittee had the added benefit of creating an “open door” for department heads to present ideas for improvement of their departments. The work of the subcommittee has already resulted in one Giles County department and one county office identifying areas for increased revenue.
Program - Knox County
In Knox County, constituents frequently contact their county commissioners, Mayor’s Office or other local government representatives seeking help with drainage problems. These range from relatively simple issues, such as a low place in the yard that won’t drain, all the way to more serious issues such as structural flooding in their home during major rain events.
Many times these problems are strictly private property concerns. This limits local government’s ability to assist, especially given the legal limits placed on the use of gas tax revenues that comprise the majority of the revenue of most highway maintenance departments.
In Knox County, the Environmental Stewardship Program, or ESP, was conceived as a way to find partnerships and opportunities to help private constituents plagued by stormwater runoff problems, and at the same time, promote and showcase better, more environmentally responsible strategies for managing runoff. It is a voluntary cost-share program that funds low-impact or “green” technologies to improve infiltration, address erosion and reduce stormwater runoff on privately owned properties in Knox County. The program was initiated fifteen years ago with limited funds, with an emphasis on partnership between the Knox County Department of Stormwater Management, local utilities, and the Knox County Highway Department.
Early successes indicated that ESP was a winner and was bringing significant relief to constituents who had previously been unable to manage drainage problems on their own. The county has expanded the program over time. In order to ensure that work was completed per the approved plans, participants were required to select from a list of contractors that have the proper skills, knowledge and equipment, and who have been fully vetted by Knox County Procurement.
Recently the fifteen-year anniversary of the program was observed, with a banquet and celebration at a local event facility. Both current and past participants attended, and constituent-led presentations were made showcasing program successes. The ESP, under the direction of county employees Chris Granju and Martin Pleasant, has completed approximately 200 successful projects and remains among the most successful and proven constituent service programs in Knox County.
Jail Population Management Project – Shelby County
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, the public defender and the mayor of Memphis have a long history of cooperation to improve the operation of the criminal justice system in Memphis and Shelby County. This work resulted in the dismissal of a lawsuit against Shelby County regarding the operation of the jail after an improvement plan for the jail was developed. One important component of the plan was a jail population management strategy. This strategy includes using data, a jail population management analyst, and cross-system coordination with stakeholders to identify efficiencies or practices that would result in better outcomes for defendants.
This project has been nationally recognized. Shelby County was recently awarded a $350,000 MacArthur Foundation grant from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2017 to implement strategies that address the two main drivers of the local jail population 1) Increases in the average length of stay despite a decline in jail bookings and 2) Increasing case processing times.
To safely reduce the jail population, the county will implement five strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and disparities:
Reduce case processing times, using data to develop solutions that will resolve system processing delays.
Enhance the Pretrial Services’ Jail Intake Unit with a focus on enhancing the pretrial risk assessment and release decision-making framework.
Expand the Pretrial Services’ Behavioral Health Unit, including implementing a new jail-based behavioral health screening tool and increasing staffing within the Behavioral Health Unit.
Consolidate the misdemeanor citation processing and court appearance dates.
Develop a tool to expedite the appointment of counsel, which will include a comprehensive indigency assessment to be given by the Pretrial Services’ Jail Intake Unit.