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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Marty Qually

(1/2013) In January 2012, three new County Commissioners took office in Adams County. This was the first time in 50 years that an entirely new Board of Commissioners was elected. We entered County government to the anxious looks of staff members nervous about the new "bosses". In our first months we attended dozens of presentations from local organizations eager to "educate" us and spent hours educating ourselves on the issues within the County. Prior to all of that, on the day after the election, Randy, Jim, and I all had the same thoughts, "Who are those other two? and "How are we going to work together?" We each cared deeply for the County and with that knowledge we did something unusual for elected officials: We committed to treat each other with respect, communicate openly and honestly, and work together for the benefit of the county and all its residents. I humbly present to you our year in review. It is not up to the Commissioners to judge whether or not this year has been successful, but for the public to see if they made a good choice in last year’s election.

Economic Development

On the National level there is always the debate over how much government should be involved in economic development. In Adams County we accepted early on that while we cannot control development, we can increase our understanding of area business, improve our Planning and Tax Services department ability to streamline development processes, and with our 2013 budget, increase our monetary contribution to the Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC). We have attended countless meetings held by tourism officials, agricultural organizations, Penn State Extension, the Council of Governments, and our own ACEDC in order to learn as much as possible this year. In working hand-in-hand with our Planning Office and the ACEDC we have created an economic development survey that will go out to our municipal and business leaders and the public to help us understand regional priorities for economic development. This bottom up approach of learning from our local leaders and citizens has been a welcome breath of fresh air for many people. Another area of interest that we have placed in high priority is the need to improve our digital infrastructure. While we have safe water to drink, roads, sewer systems and utilities, we have learned that our residential and business needs for higher speed internet are growing faster than the infrastructure to support it. With this in mind we took the work of an existing group of volunteers, the Broadband Initiative, and created a County appointed Broadband taskforce. This taskforce has been directed to determine the existing needs and develop potential plans for Adams County’s future. Beginning in 2013 the taskforce will interview high data users and large businesses to assess their needs. We believe that in order to create an environment conductive to business growth we must develop the infrastructure to support our existing businesses and the economies of the tomorrow.

Improved Communication

Besides being in the news way too much, we have actually made substantive changes to the way we make ourselves available to the public and have increased communication both inside and outside of the Courthouse. This past year we held four public forums in traditionally unheard areas of the County. During our campaigns we each were told that some areas away from Gettysburg felt that their concerns were not being heard by the County. We held forums in Buchannan Valley, Littlestown, East Berlin, and Arentzville. We discussed topics such as Economic Development, Water Quality, Clean and Green, and Agro tourism. In 2013 our first forum will be in the Conewago/Mcsherrystown area and our goal is to have a total of four forums.

One of the groups that has lead the charge in helping local governments become more efficient and organized is the Adams County Council of Government (COG). While the County has been a member for some time, this year we made it a priority to attend meetings. For most meetings this year all three of us have been in attendance. We are impressed with the great work that the COG had done and look forward to their continued involvement.

Historically, every month Fred Snyder of Freddy’s Breakfast Nook on AM 1320 would host at least one of the Commissioners for a brief update on County business. Most County business is not glamorous so these shows were not very exciting. We took a different approach this year: We began to invite our Directors to join us at the microphone, so that listeners got a better picture of the role of County government in our lives.

Inside of the Courthouse we started some new initiatives to improve communications. Every other Friday we send out a TGIF email blast to all of our employees. This may not sound like a big deal, but many staff members have complemented us on our willingness to keep them abreast of County issues and on updating them on area events that are effecting County government. We have implemented cross disciplinary teams within the Courthouse to address common issues, such as our IT and Capital Improvement needs. Another item that few outside of the Courthouse hear about is the relationship between County Commissioners and Judges. In some Countyies County Commissioners and Judges do not get along or even talk to one another. Once we understood the absolute need for improved communication between our Executive and Judicial leadership, we have included the Judges as equal participants in many County wide issues. While we do not always agree, we have opened the doors of communication and it has done wonders for morale and will yield more efficient government in the coming years.

Long Term Planning

As I mentioned earlier, we have created two Teams (IT and CAP improvement Team) in order to begin addressing the current and future needs of County government. Our IT team has already planned and implemented the installation of over 40 new computer servers. Until last month we did not have adequate backup for our data; if a server had crashed, Adams County could have lost vital information. In today’s technologically driven work environment, it was vital to make this improvement. The IT Team has also started implementing a plan to replace all 450 County computers in the coming years with "virtual" desktops. These units will rely on direct data back-up to our servers and will not require the CPU units that traditionally sit beside the desk. Imagine your computer being simply a monitor, a keyboard, a small processor, and a cord going into the wall. These will save the County substantial amount of money in the years to come. Our Capital Improvements team is working on both short term and long term projects. It has focused on our need to plan for new construction, reduce our dependence on leased properties, and develop Capital equipment replacement plans. In 2013 you will begin to see the fruits of these discussions.

Radio project

Our first meeting of 2012 was, without a doubt, the most difficult of the year. There was a critical need to improve our 911 radio system for the safety of our residents and our first responders. I am proud to announce that not only are we proceeding as planned, but that our first substantial milestone had been reached and we are already under budget. December marked the completion of our Critical Design Review phase, wherein our EMS department worked with our vendors to create the detailed plans for the physical makeup of the system. During this review various redundancies were found and they were able to cut the project expenses by $636,000. This year we will begin tower construction and by 2014 our first responders will have radios in hand.

Efficient Government

Following in the hard work of our predecessors, through strong fiscal management and a resolve not to use any of our reserve funds to balance our 2013 budget, we have preserved our Bond Rating at A1. Our goal for this year is to improve that to AA. Our 2013 budget has no tax increase; meanwhile each neighboring County has posted an increase this year over last.

In 2012 we merged the Planning Department, Agricultural Preservation, Environmental Services, and Mapping Department into a singular Planning Services Department. Both our staff and our residents are already beginning to see the benefits of this streamlined approach to planning. In 2013 this new department will take up residency at the Adams County Agricultural Resource Center furthering our coordination of services by creating a one-stop-shop approach for many land use issues.

We also merged our Tax Assessment, Mapping, Appeals, and Appraising departments into one Tax Services Department. In January we hope to host our first walk though of the redesigned and remodeled department. This change was long overdue. While all of these departments worked well separately, we are now poised to innovate and coordinate services. These mergers will result in cost savings and streamlined services for our residents.

There is no doubt that it took leadership to get all of these items completed or on the right course, but more than that it took the hard work and dedication of countless community volunteers and County staff members. For our part as Commissioners I will leave you where I began, with a commitment to continue working together and communicating with one another. It is only with that as our basis that we can serve the public. None of us ran for office to glorify ourselves or to change our County for change’s sake. We are proud to serve the community that we love and in the end we believe this was a good year for Adams County. We are poised to do great things as a Community and we look forward to our part in that. Happy New Year!

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