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Howard County Wins Four NACo Awards for Innovative Governance

Howard County Wins Four NACo Awards for Innovative Governance

June 11, 2020

Media Contact: 

Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412 

National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded four 2020 Achievement Awards to Howard County to honor innovative, effective government programs that strengthen services for residents. 

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced today that the National Association of Counties (NACo) has selected Howard County for four 2020 Achievement Awards. The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.   

“This is the second year in a row Howard County has received significant recognition from NACo for innovative and effective government solutions,” said Ball. “NACo represents 3,069 county governments across the nation, and Howard County continues to stand out on good governance and creative problem solving. At a time when our government faces unprecedented challenges during a global pandemic, celebrating these achievements is important as innovation will continue to be a central strategy to make Howard County the best place to live, work and play. These awards represent the commitment and creativity of our workforce to serve the public. I am grateful to everyone who works every day to make Howard County the best county in our country.” 

NACo has announced the following awards for Howard County:

Historic Preservation and Tax Credit Pre-Approval Program 
The Minor Alterations and Executive Secretary Tax Credit Pre-Approval processes (the program) were created by the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) for the Howard County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) following the July 30, 2016 flood in Ellicott City. Due to the high volume of applications the Commission received in the months following the flood, DPZ sought to create an expedited administrative approval process. The goal was to create a process that would expedite the approval of applications for minor alterations and for repairs that qualified for tax credit pre-approval while allowing for due process afforded by law. This program required changes to the County Code and to the HPC’s procedures and established a 5-day online review process. If, after 5 days, staff has not received any HPC or public objections, then the application is administratively approved as a minor alteration, not requiring HPC approval; or it is preapproved for tax credits. This new program has expedited the process for many applicants, facilitated rebuilding of Ellicott City post flood, reduced the workload associated with these applications and resulted in more efficient HPC monthly meetings.

“This NACo Award for our Historic Preservation Expedited Review Process is greatly appreciated,” said Department of Planning and Zoning Director Amy Gowan. “This process was created to respond to the 2016 Ellicott City flood so that the community could rebuild expeditiously while safeguarding the heritage of the town. Over 400 properties in Ellicott City and additionally over 1000 properties countywide will benefit from this expedited process for minor alterations, as well as the Historic Preservation Commission to help manage the volume of requests.”

Weekend Warrior Snack Pack Program 
In 2017, the Food Access Committee of Howard County, comprised of representatives from the Howard County Office of Community Sustainability, Howard County Office of Community Resources and Services, Howard County Library System, Howard County Public Schools, Community Action Council, Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, and Local Children’s Board, recognized a gap in food access services for children during the summer months when school is not in session.  The Weekend Warrior Snack Pack Program was created to provide healthy, nutritional food for food insecure children on the weekends during the summer months. Each snack pack includes enough food for one child for the weekend. The food for the snack packs has been selected with the assistance of a nutritionist and is ready to eat or microwavable for easy consumption.

Since 2017, 6,273 snack packs have been distributed across 5 locations in Howard County, with numbers increasing each year (2017-2019). In 2019, nearly 1,200 children participated in the program.  The program is administered by utilizing the existing infrastructure of the Howard County Roving Radish program, which is managed by the Office of Community Sustainability and already has the equipment and space to prepare and deliver food to residents. The Weekend Warrior Snack Pack Program has made a positive impact on the community and children of Howard County. 

"We're honored to receive this recognition from the National Association of Counties for our ongoing commitment to increasing food access for communities throughout Howard County," said Jacqueline R. Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. "The summer can be a difficult time for families seeking to maintain consistent, healthy eating options for children without the support of meals provided during school hours. We appreciate the work of our interagency partner, the Roving Radish, and the support of county administration for making health and wellness a priority through the work of this important initiative.”

Howard County Turf to Trees and Trees Giveaway 
The Department of Recreation and Parks and the Office of Community Sustainability work closely together to promote more tree planting in Howard County. Turf to Trees is a program that increases overall tree canopy by working with residents to plant trees on private property.  Since 2015, Turf to Trees has planted 6,766 trees on approximately 34 acres of land.

To get even more trees planted, Howard County held a Tree Giveaway event in October 2019. 2,000 trees were planted, and county staff interacted with residents by email and on the tree pickup days, adding to a positive impression of county government and increasing our efforts to combat climate change.

“Both Turf to Trees and Weekend Warrior Snack Packs are great examples of intragovernmental partnerships.  In each case departments ignored traditional silos in order to work together to achieve common good,” said Josh Feldmark, Director of the Office of Community Sustainability. “They are ideal models for good government.”

Howard County Mental Health Program 
Howard County Police Department’s Mental Health Section was established in 2018 as a proactive move as departments across the country saw increases in calls for service with mental health components. The section, which falls under our Community Outreach Division, includes a supervisor, two officers and a civilian licensed clinical professional counselor, and assists community members in crisis navigate available resources. Members of the section provide direct outreach to persons in crisis and ensure follow-up services are offered to those who undergo an emergency petition, over 1,200 annually in Howard County. The Mental Health Section also educates fellow officers and community partners on how to better serve those in crisis.

“The recognition for HCPD’s Mental Health Section from NACo truly calls attention to their compassionate, effective efforts in assisting community members experiencing mental health challenges navigate the resources available to them,” said Chief Lisa Myers. 

NACo President Mary Ann Borgeson said, “We are seeing firsthand now more than ever that counties work tirelessly to support our residents. This year’s Achievement Award-winning programs showcase how counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more. In 2019, Howard County received seven Achievement Awards from NACo.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received.   

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