04 Apr Your Government at Work
“It is the providence of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”- Oliver Wendell Holmes
If you don’t like Wal-Mart, you can decide to shop at Target. If the food or service at your favorite restaurant starts to slip, you can always try the one down the street. With most everything in life, we have choices. But that’s really not the case when it comes to dealing with our local government. We have to pay property tax, purchase car tags, and in most of the county, trash service. If you have a pothole on your street, or a need to talk to the planning department, your County Government is the only game in town. That’s why in 2010, we, the entire County team, took a new perspective and approach, and we changed our culture to prioritize customer service. Crazy talk, I know. But the way I see it, if the people of Baldwin County are required to come to us, and they’re the ones who pay us, then they need to be treated like customers and be given a friendly, quick and easy experience. State and federal government folks would sometimes rather climb to the top of a tree to say no, than stand on the ground and figure out how to say yes. In Baldwin County, we’ve empowered our people to solve the problem at hand without automatically sending the customer on to someone else. Sure, there are always exceptions, and we aren’t perfect, but I love the work that your County employees do.
We implemented LEAN training for our supervisors which looks at efficiency improvements in processes and perspective of workflow. At the completion of the training, we improved the work order process for the three highway maintenance barns. They completed 2,712 individual work orders last year—pothole patching, ditch cleaning, bridge maintenance, culvert repair, emergency drainage, sign replacements, to name a few. We also developed a cost accounting system in the Highway Department to be able to look at our costs between our barns and compare that to the private sector. A great example of how this benefitted the County is with road resurfacing. We discovered that our equipment and labor cost per unit was $10.78, so we went to bid for the same work and have paid as low as $6.50, but never higher than $8.25. We can pave an average of 46% more miles on the same dollars!
In 2017, your Solid Waste Department handled 291,712 tons of garbage, which was an 11% increase from 2016. We have continued to improve efficiencies in billing, routing and collections through new technologies. I love our solid waste team and have taken rides with them. It is very difficult work that always improves our quality of life. So the next time you see one of our team members, please give them room on the roads.
Mike Howell, our Chief Building Inspector, is the most qualified building official in the state. We have the most current building codes in Alabama. Over the last two full fiscal years, the Building Department inspection revenues were $725,985 and $672,725, and will be higher this year. In February, they issued 491 permits for almost $75,000. This year, your Building Department is budgeted to cost $642,045 — that’s $37,000 less than the previous year.
Council on Aging is a department not many people are familiar with unless you’re over the age of 65. It engages our senior community in many ways, such as helping with Medicare Part D applications. In this last cycle alone, the Council on Aging helped more than 1,177 customers save more than $620,000! It also facilitates the “Meals on Wheels” program around the County serving more than 18,400 meals per year. Kelly Childress and her team are angels.
The BRATS bus service handled 365,785 passengers taking them 1,044,542 miles in 2017. Beyond several ride-to-work routes and festival shuttles, they are also a huge asset to our elderly population and our mentally handicapped. The folks who drive for BRATS truly serve our community.
By listening to your needs and managing them through our departments, we’ve been able to develop a local County Government that works efficiently for you. We don’t want government doing things it shouldn’t do — like the Wilderness Program that we recently contracted to sell, saving us more than $1M annually and paying off $4.5M in debt — but we do want to be great at the things for which we are responsible. Your County employees are exceptional at their jobs, they love serving our community and make a positive impact on our quality of life daily.