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Arundel citizen's commission recommends fixes in technology, efficiency

A citizens' commission has given Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman a long to-do list for improving county government.

After meeting for eight months, the 45-member Commission on Excellence recommended Tuesday a suite of changes ranging from updating software to providing customer service training to zoning inspectors.

Neuman announced the recommendations on Tuesday at an event in Glen Burnie, then held a Twitter chat to discuss the report.

"We don't want to create a report and put it on a shelf," Neuman said.

Many of the recommendations are aimed at making work flow more smoothly for county employees to provide more information to citizens, often through improved software and searchable websites.

While replacing technology and software will cost money up front, Neuman said it can save money in the long run by making government operate more efficiently.

Neuman brought with her a typewriter and microfiche as examples of past-its-prime technology used by county workers. "This is not outdated equipment according to the standards set at the Arundel Center," she said.

Some recommendations are aimed at saving money directly, for example, by creating incentives for department managers to finish the year under budget or to submit lower budget proposals.

Another potential money-saver would be to consolidate vehicle maintenance garages that serve the county's landfill, public works utilities division, public works highway division, parks and fire department.

Some recommendations would need approval by the county council to be carried out. For example, the commission recommends that some minor zoning variances could be granted without a public hearing if no formal objection has been filed. That would require a change to the county's code.

Other commission recommendations include:

•Seek accreditation for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

•Combine emergency dispatch and communications systems for the police and fire departments.

•Put more police officers and firefighters in the community by staffing administrative jobs with civilians.

•Coordinate with Anne Arundel Community College on worker training programs.

•Encourage the libraries and public schools to allow school librarians to fill short-term vacancies in the library branches.

•Upgrade video security systems in the county's jails.

•Restore the position of land use officer in the Office of Planning and Zoning, add assistant directors to senior centers and make the position of medical director of the Fire Department a paid position.

Neuman appointed the commission members last year after she was appointed county executive to replace John R. Leopold, who resigned following his conviction on two counts of misconduct in office.

Reginald Broddie, a team leader on the commission, said he found county employees were forward-thinking but hampered by a negative culture from the prior county executive's tenure. To do their best, he said, "they simply needed leadership and direction and a little bit of love."

Neuman's chief administrative officer, Karen Cook, will be charged with implementing the Commission on Excellence recommendations.

In an interview, Neuman indicated that some of the recommendations could be carried out in her next budget, which is currently being drafted.

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