By Chad Selweski
Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Macomb County's showing in the annual national competition for "good government" awards, while stellar in the past, slipped again in 2010.
The county won eight awards from the National Association of Counties, while Oakland County garnered 17 awards and Wayne County had 11. The three metropolitan Detroit communities were the only counties in Michigan to grab a NACo achievement award this year.
Half of this year's Macomb achievement awards went to the county Clerk's Office overseen by Carmella Sabaugh. The NACo citations recognized innovative county programs dealing with environmental protection, the courts' jury system, senior citizen services, veterans' benefits and H1N1 flu prevention.
The county had finished No. 1 in Michigan in NACo awards won for 26 consecutive years, beginning in 1981. Macomb typically secured a spot among the top 10 counties in the nation.
But in 2008, Macomb's winning streak came to an end, as it lost its No. 1 ranking in Michigan to Oakland County. Oakland has retained the top spot since.
County board Chairman Paul Gieleghem said Macomb had a good showing this year in the face of ongoing budget crises due to a sharp drop in property tax revenues.
"The board continuously challenges our departments to do more with less, and these programs are just a few examples of how the county has been able to deliver on that goal," Gieleghem said in a statement.
"We are very proud of the Clerk's Office, Senior Services, Veterans Services and the Health Department for working smarter and harder to meet the needs of the residents of Macomb County."
The awards are bestowed on inventive programs, and information about them is placed in a NACo national database, allowing other counties to emulate them.
The Macomb County award winners were:
- A Clerk's Office service that relies on the newest "Google Premier" technology to improve e-mail service, communication with the public, staff training and customer service.
- A clerk's Officer page program for Macomb County Circuit Court jurors waiting to be assigned to a specific trial. The pagers allow them the freedom to shop and eat in the downtown Mount Clemens shops. More than half of the cost for the program was paid by the business community.
- A collaboration between the Clerk's Office and the Health Department that allows officials to keep tabs on residential septic tanks that may malfunction and pollute local streams or drains. Sabaugh's Register of Deeds staff shares property sales data so that all homes with a well or septic tank are evaluated by health inspectors, as required by law.
- A partnership between the Clerk's Office and the Veterans Services Department that can pinpoint widows or families who are unaware of the veterans benefits to which they are entitled. The clerk's staff, which handles all death certificates, automatically shares data that specifies deaths of veterans.
- A Health Department program that publicized the importance of immunizations during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. Five 30-second public service announcements about the so-called "swine" flu were developed and broadcast on local cable systems repeatedly. Between late October and the end of December, almost 90,000 area residents were vaccinated.
- The Senior Fun Festival, which replaced the Older Americans Festival, featuring live music, dancing, demonstrations, Bingo, more than 100 informative exhibits, free health screening and crafters for area seniors. The 2010 version of the event, organized by the Senior Citizen Services Department, kicks off today at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens.
- A "Live Life Healthy After Age 60" seminar, created by Senior Services, which offers an interactive workshop created in collaboration with local hospitals, health organizations and senior centers to provide information on healthy aging.
- The Senior Services Department's "Happy Birthday 65" seminar for those newly enshrined senior citizens, with experts informing them about the details of Social Security, Medicare, prescription drug assistance and veterans information.