County take top honors in national competition
Stearns County recently won national honors for its efforts to improve services and experiences for its residents.
It won the Gold Award (first place) in the CivicPlus Civic Experience competition. CivicPlus is a web development company specializing in building e-government communication systems for cities and counties. The award recognizes local leaders who improve government services to make them more accessible to residents. Specifically, the county was commended for providing information and services to people during the pandemic and for developing practices with maximum efficiency.
The honors were for the following people:
• A new secure website with dynamic content, mobile-friendly design and navigation hubs for top departments and in-demand services. Last year, this site had over two million views.
• Its website called chatbot, a new, simpler way to access information. People can find the information they need much faster online, reducing county staff time and saving about $27,000 a year.
• Book appointments online to accommodate social distancing and other restrictions. On average, 1,733 appointment notifications were sent per month last year to people who used the service.
• Implemented Audio-Eye to help County meet website accessibility standards. It helps all visitors access what they need, even those with disabilities, such as sight problems.
• Digital forms that allow residents to submit information and requests to various services. The forms allow people to make hundreds of transactions with county offices, even when buildings are closed.
• Hybrid Council Meetings so that residents who wish to attend a Council of Commissioners meeting can now attend in person or virtually, online.
• Electronic registration of real estate documents. About 52% of these documents are now processed electronically.
• Hybrid courtrooms for most criminal, child protection and mental health hearings can now take place online, remotely.
• Prison Video Visits allow visits to take place virtually, online, from anywhere.
• Online county auctions were also praised in the price quote.
• Virtual job interviews by the human resources department were welcomed.
• The addition of alternative service methods, such as drop boxes and drive-thrus, was honored.
“This award highlights how collaboration, teamwork and technology have come together in Stearns County to improve the experiences and lives of its residents,” said Jenny Burger, Manager of Digital Services. “Stearns County always tries to be innovative and forward-thinking, doing its best to make county business easy, transparent and accessible.”