Powder Springs Station Senior Center was completed in August 2012 which included the use of approximately $1.3 million in federal grants from the Health-Related Services Administration. The new Cobb Senior Wellness Center opened its doors to the public in August at its Powder Springs Street location in Marietta. The center includes a senior community clinic. The new center also includes facilities for the county Meals On Wheels program, which helps hundreds of homebound seniors daily, as well as a teaching kitchen, a fitness studio and weight room. The accompanying senior clinic provides free, preventive healthcare for eligible seniors who are uninsured Cobb residents aged 55 to 64. It concentrates on services that are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, such as vision and hearing screenings. WellStar has supplied all equipment, staff and operational support for the senior clinic. In addition to the clinic, the center offers nutrition education, exercise classes, seminars on mental health issues and opportunities for socialization through the performing and visual arts. Renovations of the building were also partially funded through the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The building at the former Powder Springs shopping center also houses the Marietta Neighborhood Senior Center and Cobb Senior Services administrative offices.
Information Services staff developed new geographic information system mobile maps for obtaining parcel and zoning information. These maps, which have been available for many years on our regular Web site, are now accessible using smart phones or tablets. Now home buyers, real estate agents and developers can easily look up information about a property while still at the location. They can look up tax assessment information, zoning classifications and the county municipal code. This feature is available at no cost and compatible with both Android and Apple iOS devices. It even allows a user not familiar with the area to find what parcel they are looking at. Likewise, many of our existing Web sites are updating their looks and services.
The Cobb County Tax Commissioner's Office launched its new Web site and IVR payment system. When you visit cobbtax.org, you will see a brand new look. The new Tax Commissioner site also supports mobile technology for smart phones and tablets, provides self-service abilities such as online address changes and a payments portal for taxpayers with quicker updates of payment transactions. Best of all, the convenience and transaction fees charged by the payment processor have been lowered.
Cobb County’s Government Access Channel TV23 transitioned to tapeless video and audio acquisition, which resulted in far better quality while saving money on not having to buy tape for shooting and storage. We increased coverage of community events by adding the Veterans Day parade and bringing back East Cobber parade to our lineup of event coverage. The station added new monthly shows for departments, while increasing support for courts and public safety by assisting them with criminal cases.
Cobb County Elections and Voter Registration department participated in the development and testing of the State of Georgia’s new voter registration system. Cobb is one of the eighteen counties scheduled to pilot the new Web-based platform in December 2012. The system will be implemented statewide in 2013 and is projected to bring many efficiencies and operational cost savings to both the county and the state.
The Cobb County Medical Examiner’s office received several upgrades and additions to the administrative offices, laboratory and morgue during the last two years. Improvements for the administrative offices and laboratory were initiated in 2011. The administrative office construction was completed in 2011. However, the laboratory saw even more improvements in 2012, during the upgrades and additions for the morgue and new garage.
The Medical Examiner’s Office obtained Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds of $180,000 for additions and upgrades to the morgue/refrigeration unit. This project included expansion of the existing morgue, construction of a concrete pad/driveway and a metal building to cover the morgue and provide a much needed garage.
A metal building was constructed to provide cover for the morgue and a garage for loading and unloading in privacy. Before this improvement, transfers had always been performed in the open within the public eye. This privacy provides a higher level of respect and dignity to the deceased.
The laboratory received Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds of $70,000 for a new air handling and exhaust system. The original air system and exhaust system had been properly maintained, however, was inadequate by today’s standards. Odor control and temperature control during an examination was challenging. The modern air system and new exhaust system now supply a consistent temperature and up to 400cfm of air exchange. This has been a remarkable improvement.
The Property Management Department moved into the second space at Powder Springs Station this year. This move combines the department along with its preparation and staging areas into one efficient space, all on one floor.
Several renovation projects were completed in 2010, including: multiple stimulus-funded HVAC and lighting energy savings projects, Medical Examiner’s Office improvements, fire station fire sprinkler system improvements, Tag Office safety improvements and the Safety Village Depot.
Our Property Management renovation group is now at the beginning of the largest and most complex group of projects ever constructed. They are in the midst of the Senior Services Phase One at Powder Springs Station; pursuing such, on time and within budget to be finished early next spring. This will be followed by a six-year string of SPLOST projects starting with the new Juvenile Court facility to be located in the former Superior Court north building.
The Property Management maintenance group handles about 550 work orders every month and at this time has only seven that are more than 30 days old. The maintenance group is pioneering remote monitoring on outdoor condensing units with pressure monitoring systems to effectively reduce losses from copper thieves. This is especially effective with buildings that we have moved out of during some of the recent budget cutbacks. Serious savings has realized place with reductions of temperatures, water usage and water heating.
Property Management’s custodial/services group has made strides under its new makeup, utilizing more part-time staff with inmates in lieu of full time and contract labor. They’ve shifted some of the resources to grounds maintenance as well and upgraded the capability of the department’s grounds maintenance equipment to improve effectiveness. The outlook and morale for this group will be even more improved as replacement employees are now coming on board. Full utilization of the entire staff will allow us to not only take care of priorities, but also fan out to give greater services and some event set-ups for our customers.
In 2012, Fleet Management Department developed and implemented a county-wide Class C Training Program mandated by Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The program provided training on the proper use of county fuel facilities and emergency response information. The program also concluded with a program content quiz taken by more than 3,000 employees. Effective planning and deployment using several different mediums allowed the program to be completed ahead of schedule.
Fleet Management will be looking for more innovative ways to efficiently manage the county’s vehicle fleet in Fiscal Year 2013. We will be evaluating an onboard vehicle fueling module, that uses RFID technology to communicate information to our fuel islands. This system will be used to transmit vehicle odometer reading, vehicle trouble codes and grant access to county fueling facilities. If successful this will automate the fueling process, eliminate mileage input errors and short cut mechanical breakdowns before they happen.
The Information Services Department created linked information on county maps that offers up-to-date information on 2011 SPLOST projects. This helps keep residents informed as to how their tax monies are being spent.
On July 1, the State of Georgia implemented a new jury selection process that widened the pool of jurors and created a new process for juror selection. The Information Services department worked for months leading up to the implementation date ensuring a smooth process and adherence to the new law.
The Police Department’s ability to access and process information effectively is largely dependent on wireless communication. This year, the Police department and Information Services department teamed up to install “The Rocket” in all patrol cars that makes wireless communication more reliable and secure for all data transmissions including wireless downloads of the in-car camera system files.
This year, the Police and IS Departments expanded the use of their records management system to include the Police2Citizen portal that allows the public to query public information about accidents and criminal incidents. This portal also allows citizens to pull accident reports from the Internet as well as look for missing pets.
The Information Services department has saved thousands of dollars by re-negotiating software licensing costs and by switching to a different level of Oracle. Additionally, we have expanded AT&T’s MetroE Internet connections to our all of our fire stations. This will offer faster Internet connections for accessing fire information along with saving the county money on monthly charges.
This past year, the Water System, with the assistance of the Information Services Department, implemented a fast pay solution allowing water customers to pay online with information from their bill without having to sign up for an online account.
Working with the Tax Assessor’s Office, the Information Services department added six municipalities’ tax exemption information to the Annual Tax Assessment Notice. While not required by state law this additional information was provided at the request of the Tax Assessor’s Office to better inform citizens of their estimated property tax liability.
In 2012, the Cobb County Public Library System reached out to bring awareness of the value and importance of libraries in the community. The library staff went beyond the walls to provide programs and services to Cobb citizens. “Geek the Library,” a library advocacy initiative sponsored by OCLC with a grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provided the library system with free bookmarks, posters, T-shirts, bags and stickers to distribute to people in the community. The “Geek” campaign enabled staff in their “geek” shirts and citizens to engage in conversations about library programs and services. The staff “geeked” or talked about things people liked or had an interest in at various events. “Geek the Library” made it possible for library staff to reach out to more than 10,000 people in the community.
Library card sign-up campaign was a huge success this year. The library system registered 4,000 new cards. This number was up by 150 new cards from the 2011 campaign. More than 300,000 Cobb residents have library cards. Many of the new cards issued this year were to new families in the community; however, residents of the new Sterling Estates Senior Living Community and parents of children in the Head Start program took advantage of the library card campaign to register for cards too. The steady increase in the number of new cardholders was an indication of how important libraries are to so many of our residents.
With the senior population being one of the fastest growing in Cobb, the library system promoted special programs and services of interest to seniors. Throughout the year, library staff conducted book talks at Enrichment of Life Movement program for adults, primarily seniors. Monthly, staff talked about books and a variety of topics to 20-25 senior participants. From talking about mysteries to hearing steel drum music played by a staff member, the quality of life of ELM participants was enriched by this special outreach activity. The library system also partnered with organizations like AMLAS, the Atlanta Metro Library for Accessible Services, to provide information to its staff members about the services and materials available to patrons of all ages who are unable to read standard print material due to visual or physical disability.
Digital services were expanded and enhanced this year. Under the leadership of the Digital Manager, the Technology Steering Committee increased accessibility to print and digital resources. The staff provided greater access to emerging technologies appropriate for the needs of the diverse community. Many online programs and services, such as online summer reading program for young adults and adults, additional computer classes and an e-newsletter that has more than 13,000 readers, were offered to the community. Classes on using e-reader devices were introduced as well as tips on downloading materials to the devices.
New online databases were launched in 2012. Ed2go, a database that provides access to hundreds of instructor-led online courses covering such topics as creating web pages, accounting and grant writing, is a valuable resource that shows significant cost-savings to residents. Since the library launched the program in November 2012, Cobb residents have registered for more than 350 courses. These courses cost around $180 each at local colleges and universities; by offering the courses for free to Cobb residents and library cardholders, the Cobb County Public Library System has saved residents more than $60,000 after only a month of availability.
The library has also expanded its database offerings to include access to databases such as Learning Express, an interactive online database that features more than 700 practice tests including GED and firefighter test prep. The job and career accelerator provides personalized, step-by-step job search assistance – from exploring and matching suitable occupations from more than 1,000 detailed occupation profiles to finding available jobs from a database of more than 5 million up-to-date job postings. Morningstar Investment Research Center offers analysis on 1,700 stocks, 2,000 mutual funds and 300 exchange traded funds. Demographics Now offers a variety of simple, ready-to-use demographic data reports useful for small business owners, marketing professionals.
With assistance from volunteers and friends, the library system conducted two very successful book sales during the year. In 2012, the library raised more than $60,000. The ongoing book sale, established in 2012, raised more than $30,000. The library system’s book sales remain an important source of revenue to support the development of the library system’s collections – print and digital.
Support from community organizations and institutions helped CCPLS reach a few goals. The Cobb County Library Foundation donated $2,500 toward the purchase of a laptop computer dedicated to accessing government information, forms and services. Cobb EMC donated $500 to purchase book bags for the library system’s book club kits and an iPad for summer reading. The Friends of the Library donated $3,500 for the purchase of an electronic devices kit used for patron and staff instruction.