Seven Prince William County government programs were recognized by the National Association of Counties (NACo) for being innovative and earned 2014 NACo Achievement Awards.
Those programs include: the Veterans Enhanced Transportation Service; the Department of Fire and Rescue Hazardous Materials E-learning System; the Landfill Gas to Energy Expansion Program; the Medical Physical Program; the Human Resources Liaison Program; The E-3 Educate, Enhance and Engage in the Budget Process; and a new Online News Portal.
The Veterans Enhanced Transportation Service (V.E.T.S.) is a service administered through a partnership between the Prince William County Area Agency on Aging and Volunteer Prince William’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The V.E.T.S. program offers safe and reliable transportation to veterans and their spouses who cannot transport themselves to doctor’s offices or pharmacies. The program also gives veterans 55 and older an opportunity to volunteer as drivers.
The Department of Fire and Rescue Hazardous Materials E-learning System helps members of the Department Fire and Rescue who are often called upon to deal with hazardous materials and must stay up-to-speed in their training qualifications to be able to safely handle those materials. In January 2012, the department implemented a system to help fire and rescue personnel maintain and exceed those qualifications. The training system, which incorporates a monthly, online, e-learning course — designed by departmental hazardous materials professional staff — exceeds federal training requirements. The training has had minimal impact in employee training time and cost. It has improved response time, safer resolution to emergency calls and has allowed teams to return to normal operations faster.
The Landfill Gas to Energy program, which converts methane produced at the Prince William County Landfill into electricity, required cooperation between the county, Fortistar – the owner and operator of the landfill’s gas power plant, and the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC). After years of planning and negotiations between the county, Fortistar and NOVEC were complete, the project was designed, built and put into service on Oct. 28, 2013. Fortistar owns and operates the power plant and sells the energy it produces to NOVEC. The five engines at the facility that run off methane produced by the landfill produce electricity and generate 6.87 megawatts to meet the power needs of more than 5,000 electric customers. The engines use 90 percent of the methane that is captured at the landfill. The remaining gas that is flared off is of low methane content and is unsuitable to power the engines that produce electricity.
Prince William County provides fire and rescue service through a combination of career and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The Medical Physical Program was implemented after the death of a volunteer during a training event. The program provides comprehensive medical exams to all operational personnel prior to physical training and annually thereafter. The program includes all county employees in a public safety role since they are most at risk for job-related stress, medical problems and traumatic injuries.
In 2012, the Prince William County Human Resources Department created a partnership among all departments and agencies by establishing the Human Resources Liaison Program. The program provides the department with ongoing, regular opportunities to enhance delivery of services to departments and agencies by offering monthly meetings to inform people throughout county government who are designated as “HR Liaisons.” During the monthly meetings, the liaisons receive opportunities to get training, hear timely announcements and collaborate on process improvement. The liaisons are encouraged to interact and ask questions of all human resources staff and are regularly canvased to ensure that discussion topics meet their needs along with the needs of other departments and agencies.
The Prince William County Budget Department’s E-3: Educate, Enhance and Engage in the Budget Process was developed to help county residents understand the budget process. An online, interactive forum was created so citizens could ask questions and get answers to their questions about the budget. Requests for greater government transparency and the public’s expressed desire for online communication led the development of the process. The E-3 Program allows citizens to educate themselves about the budget while participating in the process online. While the program is still a work in progress, community involvement in the budget process has increased since the implementation of the E-3 program.
The Prince William County Office of Communications created an Online News Portal to provide county residents and local press organizations an outlet that provides access to information. The portal also offers opportunities for public interaction. The program measurably increased citizen touch points with county government and created a space for dialog that did not previously exist.
NACo spokesman Brian Namey said that the awards were a way for the organization to recognize innovative county work across the nation.
Namey also said that the organization’s recognition of innovative programs offered other counties the opportunity to see and perhaps emulate those programs that they liked. “We want to foster that kind of learning among our county members. In our newsletter, we frequently highlight interesting programs for member counties to take note of and learn from. We take opportunities to share those best practices with our members.”