Cobb County Government
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Adding up savings to taxpayers

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From right, Staff Auditors Steven Harper and Barry Huff interview members of Cobb County Human Resources about their benefit program.

Staff Reports

There are times when looking over someone’s shoulder can be a task, a career or even a government department.

With just four people, the Internal Audit Division is a small part of Cobb government, but its impact can be felt throughout the county.

"We make sure the county resources are being used in the most efficient, effective way for the citizens," Division Manager Latona Thomas said. "We’re here checking. We’re independent. We’re objective."

Thomas, a certified public accountant, said the county’s financial statements are audited by an outside firm.
Internal Audit, instead, largely reviews processes and procedures of county departments to look for ways they can be improved.

These improvements can mean cost savings to taxpayers. For instance, the division was involved in the decision to have Human Resources no longer distribute annual benefit statements, which has saved an estimated $15,000 each year.

"A lot of times it’s hard to quantify the amount of money that will be saved," Staff Auditor Barry Huff said. "Every audit is different."

Two years ago, the division audited the street light program. It ended up making about 30 recommendations that led to the development of a Geographic Information System database of where every street light is in the county. This audit by itself resulted in revenue increases of $32,809 for two years, according to the division’s 2010 and 2011 annual report.

Cobb County Spokesman Robert Quigley said Internal Audit, which became its own division in 2008, performs an essential function for county government.

"Internal Audit is an important safety mechanism to ensure county operation standards and accountability standards are consistently being met," he said. "They help us monitor the job we do for the public."

Most recent audits included the evaluation of 800 MHz radio operations, emergency 911 fund administration and controls over accountable equipment. These audits resulted in more than 40 recommendations that increased the effectiveness and efficiency of county operations.

One current audit involves looking at the controls over incoming and outgoing benefit payments in the Human Resources Department. Huff said they go over processes and procedures in detail with the departments they audit.

"We always ask the question why they do it that way," he said.

Often the division acts as a consultant, advising other departments on such matters as the Economic Development Incentive Program, pension actuarial accuracy or the hiring of professional services. The division also facilitates the citizen suggestion cost savings program.
 
Huff, who started with the county in 2007 after retiring from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, said his work with the county is satisfying when they can find a better way to do something, thereby saving time and money.

"If we can do that, we’ve met our goal," he said.

New Senior Wellness Center draws a crowd

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An estimated 300 people attended the Aug. 29 ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Senior Wellness Center in Marietta. The new facility also houses the administrative staff for Cobb County Senior Services as well as a fitness studio and a cafe for seniors.

Staff Reports

Local officials, U.S. Congressman David Scott and hundreds of seniors gathered recently to officially open the new Senior Wellness Center at 1150 Powder Springs St., Marietta. It is the first center of its kind in the region and a successful redevelopment effort.

This once-vacant shopping center is now home to the new 42,000 square foot facility, which is LEED certified, and is expected to serve thousands of Cobb seniors. It is also the new location for the Marietta Neighborhood Senior Center for residents age 60 or older.

A majority of construction funding came from federal grants. Fundraising efforts, which included selling commemorative brick pavers and naming rights of the various rooms, paid for furnishings.

The WellStar clinic at the facility will provide free, preventive and chronic healthcare services for eligible, low-income seniors who are uninsured Cobb residents between the ages 55 and 64. The facility also includes a fitness studio, café, teaching kitchen, classrooms, an art studio, banquet hall and conference room with state-of-the-art multimedia and teleconferencing features.

Classes will include yoga, Pilates, Zumba, exercising with stability balls, chair exercise, stretching, Tai Chi, self defense, strength training, aerobics, ballroom dance, Latin dance, line dance, square dance, ballet, tap, folk dance, belly dancing, jazz and sculpting with clay. Registration for fall classes begins the week of Sept. 17 and classes begin the week of Oct. 15. All classes are fee-based. Additional information is available on cobbseniors.org.

Life-sized fun and adventure for all

Families are invited to enjoy a fun and educational event for children of all ages at the Cobb County Touch-A-Truck event 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29. Participants will be able to explore police cars, SWAT trucks, fire rescue trucks, fire engines, heavy construction vehicles, dump trucks, front end loaders, TV trucks, military vehicles and a police helicopter. The event will be held at Town Center Mall in Kennesaw and is $5 per person, with a maximum of $20 per family. All proceeds will benefit the Cobb County Safety Village. The event is sponsored by Cobb EMC. For more information, call 770-528-3270.

Stop for buses required by state law

The Cobb Police Department is warning drivers to respect school buses. Georgia has a School Bus Stop Law. All traffic in both directions must stop when school buses halt for passengers, except when there is a divided highway of four lanes or more with median separation. In that case, only traffic following the bus must stop. When an officer catches drivers in violation, penalties are a possible court appearance, an up to $1,000 fine, six points on driving record and a license suspension for convicted drivers under 21 years old. When a stop arm camera catches drivers, the penalties are a $300 fine for the first offense, $750 fine for the second and $1,000 fine for the third – within a five year period. For more information, visit operationstoparm.info.