The Code Enforcement Division of the Community Development Agency worked with Communications Department staff to create written materials and a public service announcement to educate the public about common code enforcement violations. This is a proactive way to improve quality-of-life in the county and reduce code enforcement complaints through community education.
In 2016, Community Development staff initiated three new online submittal portals, including submittals for business licenses, sign permits and site plans. This allows submittal, payment, comments and revisions to occur electronically without people needing to come to county offices. Staff is committed to continuing efforts to expand online business processes and streamline the ones already in place.
Elections & Registration
The Elections Department successfully conducted four elections in 2016, including a Presidential Preference Primary and a Presidential General Election that served more than half a million county voters combined.
For the November election, the department offered a total of 11 early voting locations and provided Saturday Voting on two weekends, surpassing the number of options offered in any previous election.
A little more than 79 percent of Cobb’s registered voters cast a ballot in the November election and half of them voted prior to Election Day, either by mail or in-person.
Cobb 4-H staff taught an agriscience curriculum in 18 schools, meeting 73 classrooms/clubs monthly in Cobb County and Marietta schools. Fifth graders were able to gain knowledge by doing hands-on activities pertaining to the 4-H curriculum taught during the one-hour monthly classes.
More than 23,600 students participated in some form of 4-H programming focusing on earth and life science, healthy lifestyles, career preparation and financial literacy. This was a nine percent increase in overall participation.
In-school and after-school programming, community service and community clubs taught leadership development, public speaking, healthy lifestyles and workforce development skills.
Cobb County 4-H focused on providing a new perspective to healthy living by addressing the social and economic wellbeing of youth and adults. The 4-H agent conducted 12 sessions, reaching 59 youth and 381 adults.
Cobb Extension Services staff submitted 1,642 soil tests, 61 water samples and 46 plant samples for disease analysis to the University of Georgia.
Horticulture staff reached more than 22,000 residents through 57 classes and presentations, daily walk-in consultations and phone or written consultations.
Cobb Extension Master Gardeners made more than 35,900 contacts throughout Cobb County, donating more than 20,180 volunteer hours and driving a total of 77,372 miles. The overall value of these volunteer services was $504,239.
Master Gardeners help educate students and guide teachers through workshops. Students from 53 schools across Cobb County are learning about pollinators, growing your own food, healthy soil and composting. Teachers can also request free seeds through a seed bank and the seeds are hand delivered or mailed to schools.
“Plant a Row for the Hungry” is one of five community gardens that are supported by Cobb Master Gardeners financially and through educational activities. This garden produced more than 3,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce that was delivered to Cobb Family Resources every Wednesday during harvest season.
Cobb County Extension staff partnered with Cobb-Douglas Environmental Health Department and Family and Consumer Sciences agents from DeKalb County to offer a nationally-recognized two-day ServSafe® Manager food safety certification program. Receiving ServSafe® Manager certification fulfills the Certified Manager Safety Manager qualification for Georgia’s food regulations.
In 2016, 98 food service professionals attended the Cobb County ServSafe® Manager training. Participants came from full service, quick service, nursing home/assisted living, child care centers, senior centers, personal care homes and limited specialty foodservice such as coffee house and catering services.
Staff also collaborated with Must Ministries to provide an 8-hour ServSafe® Food Handler Certification course for unemployed individuals at several agency locations. This course provided job specific training needed for employment and increased the potential of safe food from food service operations in Cobb County.
Family and Consumer Sciences staff conducted classes in the areas of health and healthy lifestyles, chronic disease prevention, food safety and food preservation as well as providing resources for parenting, child care, financial resilience and healthy, safe and affordable housing. These efforts reached a total of 4,024 individuals.
The Extended Food and Nutrition Program offered a Nutrition Education Series to agencies across Cobb County. This series teaches the nutritional value of foods, reading food labels, MyPlate, cooking on a budget, shopping smart and building a healthy meal for children. The program focuses on single parent families and families facing economic issues with an outreach of more than 75 families.
In 2016, Fleet Management received three major recognitions, ranking number 19 of the 100 Best Fleet’s in North America, 20th Green Fleet in North America and was the first government fleet in Georgia to place in Government Fleet Magazine’s “Notables Fleet’s in North America.” These awards are symbolic of Cobb’s efforts to provide cost efficient services using industry best practices.
Fleet Management staff is committed to environmental responsibility and stewardship, implementing innovative green technology such as the use of propane autogas, burning waste oil for heat, purchasing electric and hybrid vehicles. This proactive approach has saved taxpayers more than $200,000 and has displaced more than 175 tons of CO2 emissions.
Fleet Management also installed 13 new level 2 charging stations. These stations supply fuel for the Fire Department’s seven newly-deployed Nissan Leafs and proved much-needed infrastructure for public access.
The deployment of zero emissions vehicles and clean fuel technology has been well received by residents and county staff. These vehicles require little-to-no maintenance and offer all of the latest amenities and safety features. These vehicles ensure our employees are safe while providing superior service to the public. This is another way Fleet Management helps the public reduce dependency on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Information Services Department made huge strides in three major areas in 2016:
- Strengthening and expanding the capability and stability of our network infrastructure
- Collaborating with other Cobb departments to automate access to services and information
- Making it easier for residents to see and experience services and information available in Cobb County
The network infrastructure that serves all county departments was both strengthened and expanded through several major initiatives in 2016. Bandwidth to the Internet was increased from two 100 mbps connections to two 1GB connections, improving the performance of web-based business applications.
Connectivity to 29 fire stations was upgraded from 4 mbps to 10 mbps, allowing employees to take advantage of online training resources and also providing faster and more stable access to critical business applications.
A major roll-out of guest wireless access was completed in 2016, allowing residents and business owners to access digital services while at county facilities.
An upgrade to the county’s Voice over IP system provides a new call recording system and redundancy through a second, replicated system running at our disaster recovery site.
A robust virtual server environment was completed which resulted in improved stability and greater redundancy for business applications used by staff and residents. An alternate network core with fiber link connectivity was implemented as part of an ongoing process to provide disaster recovery capability for critical systems.
Throughout the year, Information Services staff collaborated with Department of Transportation staff on planning, design, procurement and construction of an upgrade to the communications network serving DOT’s Intelligent Transportation System.
As a result of this collaborative effort, the upgrade project was awarded the “2016 Innovation: Outside the Box Award” from the Georgia Intelligent Transportation Society.
Information Services staff also collaborated with other departments to automate access to services and information, making it easier for residents to interact with Cobb County. Residents can now renew and pay for business licenses, submit documents to the State Court Clerk’s Office and access civil and criminal case information online, any time of day.
Since going live with online business license renewals, 308 transactions totaling $276,000 were processed in a six-week period.
Several major business applications were upgraded in 2016 that provided departments with increased functionality, improved business processes and savings in time or resources. Application changes were implemented to allow Human Resources to meet new federal reporting and notification requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act and to process special pay for a public safety educational incentive.
The Accela integrated software system used by the Community Development Agency was upgraded to streamline the vendor notification process for utility permitting, allow multiple departments to route commercial permitting applications electronically and allow residents to use multiple web browsers when accessing the system.
Information Services rolled out mobile capability devices to DOT field staff, allowing them to upload photos and access their work order systems and databases in the field. A mobile device management application to secure, monitor, integrate and manage mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops was used to optimize the functionality and security of mobile devices while simultaneously protecting the county’s network.
Information Services staff collaborated with Property Management staff on renovation of the county’s mail center to provide a larger and more secure work space.
Projects were completed in 2016 which make it easier for residents to see and experience the services and information available in Cobb County. CobbCommute, a web-mapping solution using the enterprise Geographic Information System makes it possible for drivers to view up-to-date traffic information about construction or other events that may disrupt normal daily traffic flow. Mobile users can see their geographic location along a road in real time.
During inclement weather, CobbCommute indicates when roads were last treated for snow or ice. CobbCommute allows users to better plan their commutes or adapt to changing road conditions.
Information Services and the Department of Transportation were recognized by the Georgia Technology Association in 2016 with a “Technology Innovation Showcase Award” for CobbCommute.
Another way to share information with the public is through the use of visual story maps that can be accessed through mobile or desktop devices. Story maps were created in 2016 for Jim Miller Park, Cobb County Water System, the Historic Driving Tour, 2016 elections early voting and the Lost Mountain Park Softball Tournament.
The story map for early voting was recognized in GovTech.com for leveraging GIS capabilities to give the public easy access to polling station wait times and other information.
Access to Cobb County’s GIS data and applications will be expanded in 2017 for residents and staff to discover, explore and download geographic data through a centralized website. Users will be able to navigate sets of data from different departments from one website rather than being required to visit multiple sites.
In 2017, Information Services staff will make doing business with Cobb more user-friendly by continuing to expand digital e-government. Cobb will also implement a new web portal which will provide digital capability for users to transact more business activities via mobile or desktop devices.
Other projects planned for 2017 include automated workflow of documents between departments using the OnBase contracting module, completion of a countywide business continuity plan and a new application for residents to request information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Cobb County Public Library System
Innovative and sustainable programs are a hallmark of the Cobb County Public Library System. Throughout 2016, library staff developed new programs and adapted existing ones to support early literacy, family engagement, economic vitality and a healthy and safe community.
The Summer Reading Program is a countywide reading and literacy initiative, collaborating with the Cobb and Marietta school districts and the Smyrna Public Library. This collaboration of three years was bolstered by the partnership with Scholastic for a second year. The publisher provided an online platform for students to log in reading progress over the summer and this successful partnership led to Cobb students logging more than 7 million minutes of reading countywide in the summer.
The 1,000 Books B4 Kindergarten program is spreading the message of the value of early reading for young children and their families. This program started in 2015 and is also strengthened by support from community organizations and the Cobb County and Marietta City school districts. Organizations participating in the program include the Cobb Library Foundation and the National Park Service’s Kennesaw National Battlefield Park.
More than 3,000 programs were presented at Cobb County libraries in fiscal year 2016 with approximately 108,000 people in attendance. An annual count of 1.8 million patron visits and 5.5 million web page visits to the library’s site, www.cobbcat.org, is estimated for the calendar year.
Cobb County library patrons borrowed 2.1 million books, more than 320,000 CDs and videos and almost 142,000 audiobooks. The growth of library digital downloads, including eAudiobooks and eBooks, continues to increase each year. They were up to more than 325,000 in fiscal year 2016, a gain of more than 12 percent from 2015.
With the overall collection of 1.1 million items — a level that translates to about 1.5 items per capita of Cobb County residents — library system staff welcomes support for growing the collection. Contributions to the collection in 2016 included donated books, DVDs and support from organizations. More than $95,000 was raised through the book sales at Jim Miller Park and in-house book sales to support library collection development.
After a long awaited groundbreaking in April, the construction of the new East Marietta Library and Cultural Arts Center began in earnest in September 2016. Construction of the $10.6 million complex, which includes funding from the 2016 SPLOST and a $2 million grant from the Georgia Public Library Service, replaces the 8,600-square-foot library built in 1967.
The 28,000 square-foot multi-use building will combine traditional library services, such as children’s story times and adult reference assistance, with new technologies for collaborative creativity. The facility will include craft studios and classrooms, an art gallery, black box theatre, outdoor amphitheater, audio/video recording and music practice rooms.
The combined library and cultural arts center is designed to serve the nearby community as well as be an arts-oriented destination for all county residents. Situated within Sewell Park on Lower Roswell Road, the facility is a joint-use project of the Library System and Cobb P.A.R.K.S. Service.
In April 2016, the Sibley Library in Marietta underwent a major renovation. This project included the reconfiguration of library space to improve the delivery of technology training, adult education and workforce development resources. The library is a community focal point and serves many patrons relying on public transportation to reach jobs, schools and shopping destinations.
The project included the installation of new electrical and computer cable systems, interior and exterior lighting, ceiling, carpet, customer service desk, replacement of double doors and an enclosure for a computer and literacy training area. The project was funded by a Georgia Public Library Services’ Major Renovation and Repair Grant and the 2011 SPLOST. The cost projection was less than $200,000, with Cobb Property Management staff conducting the renovation.
Virtual reality kicked off in the library system as the Dream, Dare, Discover Virtual Reality Art Program was held in the fall at Switzer Library. Youth and adult attendees got the chance to don goggles to enter a virtual reality environment where they competed in a rousing game of Pictionary. With this new technology available for use and spreading rapidly to several Cobb County libraries, we are meeting our goal to give as many people the chance to experience it as possible. This program was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Technology Act Grants to States Program, which awarded $15,000 to the Cobb Library System for the initiative.
Library system staff was proud to launch “Connect Cobb,” which offers free Internet connection to library patrons. Residents without home Internet connectivity are now be able to cross the “digital divide” using portable Wi-Fi hotspots procured with a major grant from T-Mobile. The hotspots can be checked out and taken home for one week, enabling patrons to attach their own devices to the Internet. With this connectivity, people will be able to complete homework assignments, download eBooks, conduct job searches and seek educational opportunities. This service is designed to extend the vital access the library already provides our community.
Cobb GEMS is the library system’s summertime program launched in 2014 to introduce female students, ages 11 to 17, to engineering, math and science. In 2016, the program expanded to five libraries. GEMS was offered over four weeks and registration was limited to 25 girls at each location.
Professional women from a variety of technology related occupations contributed their time to mentor and give presentations on their work to the students. Organizations represented included the Georgia Public Library Service, Cobb County Water System, Cobb County Information Services, Kennesaw State University Engineering, Emory University Epidemiology, CDC, Coca Cola and Women in Technology.
More than 115 young women registered for the GEMS program. Program evaluation showed that GEMS positively changed girls’ attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and math. This program is funded by a grant from the Cobb Library Foundation.
For the second year, the library system’s Falls Prevention Awareness initiative highlighted the issue of serious injuries from falls, especially in our senior population. Prevention events were held at seven county libraries in September. A range of organizations and individuals participated, including Cobb County Master Gardener Joe Washington, officials from Cobb Senior Services, the Cobb Safety Village, UGA Cobb Extension, Georgia Department of Public Health, Emory University School of Medicine and Northwest Family YMCA instructors. Highlights of the program were health screenings by WellStar Health System and vision screenings by the by the South Cobb, East Cobb and Marietta Lions Clubs.
Property Management staff helped save taxpayer money by performing many renovations and construction projects in-house in 2016. The tag office in south Cobb was fully renovated at a cost of $154,000. The interiors of the Freeman Poole and West Cobb senior centers were also repainted.
A fitness center for county employees was built at a cost of $350,000, but no taxpayer money went toward this initiative. Money from the Wellness Fund paid for the project. The Wellness Fund comes from administrative reimbursements from AFLAC for payroll deduction of employee premiums and royalties from the Coast to Coast Prescriptions Drug Card Program.
Restoration and renovation projects were completed at Sibley and Gritters libraries, Cobb and Douglas Public Health headquarters and annex and the court complex at 10 East Park Square, Marietta.
Security systems in county buildings and parking decks were upgraded at a cost of $1.3 million.
More than 500 people attended the 2016 Aging by Design Summit and Expo. More than 80 exhibitors also provided information and health screenings.
The information and referral line is manned by fully-trained specialists who answered questions and provided resources for more than 5,000 calls in 2016.
Seniors were provided almost 51,000 rides to senior neighborhood centers, medical facilities and grocery stores.
Through the Cobb Freedom and Mobility voucher programs, 57,574 miles and 571 clients were served.
During 2016, a total of 566 volunteers donated their time and talents to Senior Services activities and events.
Volunteers made a huge difference in the lives of local seniors in need by home delivering 51,491 meals on 23 routes through our Meals on Wheels program. More than 25,000 lunches were also provided through our three neighborhood senior centers.
Meals on Wheels volunteers also drove more than 7,600 miles to deliver the meals to homebound seniors.
Thirteen members of Metro Atlanta Retired Senior Volunteer Program, a senior-to-senior-educational program, provided 35 presentations and programs.
More than 165 people participated in the health and wellness classes Tai Chi: A Matter of Balance, Diabetes Self-Management Program and Chronic Disease Self-Management.
In 2015, Purchasing Department staff began development of a centralized, electronic repository for county contracts. The system is currently being implemented in phases and all master agreement contracts, purchase orders and department orders are being stored and accessed electronically in OnBase.
In June 2016, the department relocated to a larger, more functional facility. The new facility has provided more office and file storage space and has increased operational efficiency. All public bid openings and vendor meetings are now held in this facility.