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County Awards and Recognition

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Chesterfield County Earns 17 National Achievement Awards from NACo

Chesterfield County recently received 17 achievement awards from the National Association of Counties. These awards recognize the ways that local governments are providing better, more innovative services to their residents, and strengthening communities across the country.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Award Program is designed to recognize innovative county government programs. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received. The awards are given in 21 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services that counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, environmental protection, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more. NACo will recognize the award-winning counties at its 2017 Annual Conference and Exposition, July 21–24, in Franklin County, Ohio.

“I am pleased that so many of the county’s innovative programs have been recognized this year,” said County Administrator Dr. Joseph Casey. “We have such creative staff who are dedicated to providing better customer service, improvements in service delivery and engaging the residents and businesses in our community.”

Fire Department – Toxic Exposure Reduction Program

The Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services initiated a Toxic Exposure Reduction Program to decrease firefighters’ exposure to carcinogens and other toxic materials. A comprehensive approach to this problem was developed that was multi-faceted, as well as dynamic and scalable as the department grows and the research about this subject evolves. A work group of firefighters and fire officers conducted research, and recommended organizational changes and best practices to reduce the exposure of toxins. The resulting changes have reduced exposure risks, and changed how firefighters live and work while on duty. Exposure to known carcinogens is limited in the fire stations, as well as with decontamination methods used at incidents.

Human Resources – Retirement Planning Seminar

The Retirement Planning Seminar was designed to help employees learn how to prepare and plan for a financially secure retirement. This day-long seminar includes representatives from the Virginia Retirement System and Empower Retirement (the county’s deferred compensation vendor), an attorney who discussed estate planning and Human Resource staff who discussed specific county benefits, such as retiree healthcare. The seminars help ensure that employees are knowledgeable about their benefits and can make good decisions about their future. The continued high enrollment numbers, outstanding comments and survey results demonstrate its success.

Human Resources – Wellness Incentive Program

Employee benefits, such as health care and retirement, are a critical component of an employee's total compensation, including focusing on the overall health and wellness of employees. In 2008, the county joined forces with Chesterfield County Public Schools to create C-Fit, a wellness program that addresses lifestyle behaviors that affect the health, productivity and quality of life for employees. The program includes initiatives that focus on physical activity, nutrition, mental health and disease prevention. Also, employees who received an annual physical and completed an online health assessment were eligible for a $360 incentive. The benefit to the employees, and the increase in preventative measures, is anticipated have a positive impact on health insurance costs, employee productivity and job satisfaction. The cost for the 2016 wellness incentive program was approximately $300,000, and in the first year, 28 percent of eligible employees participated. The county received aggregate data from a well-being assessment, which included questions related to tobacco use, eating habits, activity and stress levels. Other reports included aggregate data only on cholesterol, glucose, BMI, blood pressure, and a number of health risk markers. Investment into a wellness program now will lead to major health and economic benefits in the future.

IST and Social Services – Social Services Case Management System

The increasing demand for Social Services programs had recently outpaced the county's capacity and budget to staff relevant roles and upgrade technology. After discussion and research, the cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365 was selected, and the department began configuring a system to meet its needs with the Information Systems Technology Department. Streamlining processes, and modernizing welfare payments and the case-tracking system required designing a new system. A full-time analyst and other staff were cross-trained to prepare for full-time engagement. The new system has exceeded its stated goals and has launched the county's commitment to cloud technologies. The system enables staff to have direct access to their data without requesting assistance from the IST department.

Learning & Performance Center – Mentoring Pilot

Two county project teams, the Diversity Advisory Committee and Chesterfield Young Professionals, identified the need for a mentoring program. With many of the current workforce becoming eligible for retirement, it is necessary to share their institutional knowledge with others. Younger employees, in particular, want a broader perspective of the county, opportunities to interact with leaders and to learn leadership skills in a real-world environment. The program’s pilot program was completed in February, and a full-scale launch will be in September. The pilot facilitated and enhanced career development, knowledge transfer, professional skills, a meaningful connection to the organization and a better understanding of the county. The mentor/mentee relationships were unique to each pair but measurable outcomes were developed within the context of each relationship.

Learning & Performance Center – Microsoft Office 365 Training for County Employees

In 2016, the Information Systems Technology, IST, department initiated one of its largest projects in history – transitioning its entire government workforce of 4,300+ employees to Microsoft Office 365. This was a particularly complex project because each department historically had funded its own Microsoft Office products, resulting in a variety of different versions of Office across the organization, as well as significantly diverse practices for software usage and file storage. IST worked with the Learning & Performance Center, LPC, to develop a learning strategy that would provide the flexibility needed to meet the varied needs of each department, yet offer a holistic solution that resulted in consistency. LCP developed creative and cost-effective learning solutions that met the diverse needs of the organization. Success of the learning strategy paved the way for a countywide technology migration that was smooth, ahead of schedule and under budget.

Libraries – Teen Leadership Institute at the Library

The Teen Spring Break Leadership Institute provides a spring break experience for teens. The inspiration came from the goLEAD model that encourages teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a capstone project. Students work together to identify a problem, work through possible solutions, and design and implement a service project that makes a positive change in their local community. For the first institute, the teens identified hunger as the project they wanted to address, and the library hosted a food drive for residents. The gratification and excitement of helping others was clear when the teens distributed the donated food to the Chesterfield County Food Bank. The second year, a less intensive model was used focusing on Cordell Farley’s book, Life Lessons of a Throwaway Kid. Staff led an icebreaker session the first day, and then the Farley and his wife led a two-day leadership workshop, with exercises focused on self-awareness, goal setting and emotional intelligence.

Libraries – Summer Lunch at the Library

The Summer Lunch at the Library program addresses the needs of low-income students who typically receive free lunch at their public schools. The program enables them to receive assistance over the summer, with a twist. Since many of these children rely on the federal school lunch program for the daily nutrition they may not receive at home, Chesterfield County Public Library staff investigated the qualifying factors and learned about community providers for the lunches. Adding activities, and resources that tap into the library’s role in facilitating reading and learning, further benefits the participants and their families. In 2015, 1,085 lunches were served and 1,102 lunches in 2016. The program also exposed the library to a population that needs their help with the meals and builds relationships so participants know about other ways the library can help them.

Libraries – Play Smart with Toddlers: an early learning experience

Chesterfield County Public Library’s Play Smart with Toddlers program provides a comfortable atmosphere for parents to enjoy playing with their children, while learning ways to supports their development and encourage early literacy skills. Children improve their socialization skills in a safe environment, while parents connect with professionals with expertise related to children ages 0-3. Library staff identify and coordinate the experts through partnerships with county departments and other local and regional organizations. Staff and partners addresses a range of learning opportunities for parents, including learning parenting skills and making connections with early childhood agencies to find parenting information and support. This network of care is an integrated approach to the early learning needs of children, and in supporting families and caregivers.

Mental Health Support Services – Court Clinician

In 2014, with funding from the Office of Justice Programs, Chesterfield County hired a licensed clinician to work in the county courthouse. This role of the clinician is to provide support, consultation and assessment services to individuals charged with criminal offenses who also have behavioral health illnesses. The goal of the program is to avoid unnecessary incarceration, and guide them toward treatment and support sources, and ultimately mitigate or eliminate the influences or causes of future criminal behaviors. For some, the option of treatment for substance-use problems, instead of jail time, will be the court mandate. For others, a combination of sanctions and treatment will be mandated. In both cases, the individuals are exposed to new ways of looking at their behavior and choices that got them into the court system and alternatives to jail.

Parks and Recreation – Seeding Community Participation

Henricus Historical Park, a 17th century living history museum, makes educational programs available to a wide range of students of varying socio-economic and age levels. It provides innovative Standard of Learning (SOL) guidelines and Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM)-aligned hands-on and interactive programs for grades Pre-K – 12. To develop, produce and provide these programs, a minimal fee is charged that covers teaching gear, non-reusable supplies and teaching staff. While many school districts can afford these fees, some request scholarships. In 2012, a concerted effort was made to solicit funding so that partial scholarships or discounts were available for schools, particularly the Title I schools, private and home school groups, and for gifted and talented, at risk and other enrichment programs. To raise funds, Henricus promotes donor boxes, contracts partnerships or grants with specific school districts, solicits donations from service clubs and civic organizations, donations for off-site lectures and activities, and sells Henricus-created arts and crafts. These initiatives have helped Henricus meet its goal of providing fun, educational experiences to a wide range of students and visitors in the community.

Parks and Recreation – Archery Program

The Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation Department established an innovative series of archery programs and clubs to serve adults and youth. In response to demand from customers, the department created stand-alone instructional archery ranges, and began offering a comprehensive series of archery programs in 2012. The program has evolved into a wide range of opportunities, from introductory courses through a Junior Olympic Archery Development team. In addition to standard offerings, the department offers classes in adaptive archery for individuals with disabilities, bow hunting, 3-D target shooting, aiming, scoring, form development, birthday parties, group lessons, scout programs, bow maintenance, instructor certification workshops and archery-themed summer camps. Since 2012, the department has taught more than 325 archery programs, hosted the 2016 Virginia Outdoor JOAD State Championship, sent many archers to compete at the national level, and accounts for nearly $30,000 in annual revenue.

Police Department – Larceny/Heroin Investigative Group

The Chesterfield County Police Department reacted quickly and decisively to address the national opioid overdose epidemic. A four-prong approach of education, prevention, treatment and enforcement was developed. The department conducted external and internal meetings with Mental Health and Social Services departments, the Sheriff’s Office, Fire and Emergency Medical Services and Substance Abuse Free Environment, SAFE. Detectives identified increases in larcenies from automobiles and shoplifting cases that could be linked to opioid addicts supporting their habits. From this data, the Larceny/Heroin Investigative Group was formed, with a mission to enhance or create working relationships with community members and businesses to identify and arrest opioid addicts. At the same time, they also are the conduit for help from social service organizations, if investigations reveal that the suspects are supporting their addiction through criminal activity. Within the first three months, 226 cases were investigated and more than 50 people were identified or arrested. They were provided treatment through the contacts provided on a resource card created by the department, or provided treatment through the Sheriff’s Office HARP program. The group also created an email address specifically for loss prevention professionals to share information with the group, which provided a way to share information throughout the region, and help identify opioid addicts in need of services.

Sheriff’s Office – Heroin Addiction Recovery Program

The Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, HARP, is an intensive, and demanding, recovery program that specifically addresses heroin addicts. It uses a variety of therapeutic, medical and educational approaches to offer addicts options and tools that best fit their individual recovery paths. The best time to provide help to addicts is when they ask for it, and a distinction of HARP is that participants can enter the program before and after sentencing. This enables those ready to recover to enter the program on the same day they are incarcerated. HARP also includes family sessions, where families can come to the jail to be with the participants so that the recovery process can begin as a family. HARP also educates the media about the stigma of being an addict, as well as the accompanying stigma of being incarcerated, to begin building community support. Currently, HARP graduates have a 14 percent reactivation rate (any new arrest that could incur a jail and or prison sentence) as compared to the 77 percent county average reactivation rates for other inmates.

Sheriff’s Office – Safe Exchange Zone

The Safe Exchange Zone is a Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office initiative implemented in 2016 to provide a convenient and safe location to exchange goods or facilitate custody exchanges. The idea of a Safe Exchange Zone originated in Boca Raton in 2014 after several robberies that took place with victims who had purchased or sold goods on Craigslist. It was expanded to include violent incidents that may occur during custody exchanges. The safe zone provides a designated location for those involved in these types of exchanges. The zone consists of three dedicated parking spaces that are monitored 24/7 by video camera surveillance and deputy staff during regular business hours. It is painted a light blue arc shape with a white exterior band and three way-finding signs indicate the way to the safe zone. A panic button with a blue light also is provided at the location as an extra alarm and to notify on-duty deputies.

Utilities – Embracing a New Notification Process and Promoting Positive Customer Service

In 2016, the General Assembly of Virginia passed a law requiring utility agencies to give written notices to customers prior to disconnecting their service. The Utilities Department cannot disconnect customers until they are 60 days past due, and have been given four notices of the delinquency. Utilities also must notify customers in writing 10 business days prior to the disconnection. This law required significant changes to the department’s processes. To comply with the new law, and to help customers avoid disconnection, a new process was created in which changes were made to notifications, the collection schedules, the language on bills, and the schedule of when to hang courtesy and disconnect notices. After this process was revised and updated, employees also were educated about what was happening and why. They also were provided scripts of what to say to customers when they called about disconnections so that consistency and clarity was provided.

Utilities – Spoil Pile and Vehicle Wash Down Area Pollution

The Chesterfield County Utilities Department serves more than 304,700 drinking water customers with a water distribution system that consists of approximately 2,000 miles of water mains serving 107,000 active accounts. The wastewater collections system consists of approximately 2,044 miles of wastewater lines serving approximately 90,000 active accounts. When breaks occur in the lines, it is necessary to excavate the soil around the pipes. This soil cannot be put back in place once repairs are completed because the soil is too wet, so it is loaded in dump trucks and transported to the department’s operations center, where it is unloaded and dried out. Trucks also must be washed to remove any mud or dirt left in the dump bed prior to leaving the center. Utilities’ Operations and Maintenance division identified the vehicle wash-down and spoil-pile areas as a project to minimize the potential environmental impact to the facility. The department implemented a program that reduces the discharge of pollutants to the storm sewer system to protect the water quality of nearby streams, rivers, wetlands and bays. This project exemplifies intergovernmental cooperation between local and state governments, and demonstrated the department’s goal of being a responsible steward of the environment.