During County Government Month in April, CSAC is presenting blogs and short video features on 13 award-winning programs from nine counties that demonstrate effective, original and cost-conscious ways counties are serving their citizens.

Riverside County has led the state in growth in the last few years. Even as other parts of California were seeing declines in population — a rarity — Riverside bucked trends as more people moved to the Inland Empire. With more residents to serve comes a need to do so with a sharp eye on cost efficiencies and effectiveness. The three programs honored with Challenge Awards demonstrate these qualities, and more importantly, contribute to improving the quality of life in Riverside County.

Landfill Tarp Redesign and Sequence Analysis – California Counties Innovation Award
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Within the Challenge Awards is the Innovation Award, a designation for a program that simply is the cream of the crop among the top entries. In this case, the cream is really trash. There are a handful of county services that touch each and every resident and trash is a big one. Managing landfill space while keeping costs in line and meeting the myriad of regulations surrounding garbage disposal is a constant balancing act. Riverside County’s waste management experts have developed a unique tarp system that daily covers the trash, as required by law, then is removed, which allows for the next day’s trash to be deposited on the previous day’s load. In most landfills, up to six inches of dirt or green-waste is used to cover the daily loads of trash. Over the course of a year, those six inches of space ad up hundreds of feet of “airspace” that is unavailable for trash disposal. By eliminating the need for a daily dirt cover, the life of the landfill is extended, but more impressive is the fact that the county saves approximately $3 million a year.

Desert Strength Academy
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Respect is one of those intangible qualities that is difficult to teach. Most of us grasp its importance and exhibit respect from personal experience, but not everyone has positive examples from which to draw and use. At-risk youth are most vulnerable to this void in their lives, both in showing respect and earning it. Enter the Desert Strength Academy, Riverside County’s Probation Department program to give 80 youth a weeklong day-camp experience that teaches them teamwork, communication skills, positive interaction with adults and law enforcement and the importance of respect. There is also a parent component to foster greater parenting skills and strengthen families. The youth who participate are eager to return and report better self-esteem which translates into better decision making. More tangible are the results for these youth who are on the cusp of entering the Juvenile Justice system. More than 80 percent of those who go through the academy never see the inside of a courtroom or have future contact with law enforcement.
Kiosk Reporting Program
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Riverside is large in both population and square miles; thus, Riverside County Probation Officers have a lot of territory to cover when monitoring probationers. Technology is a key asset for the job these officers have in ensuring individuals are adhering to their conditions of probation. An advance Kiosk system is one of the helpful tools. It allows low-level offenders to check in with the department, answer a few simple questions and verify their identity at one of a dozen kiosks across the county. Officers get real-time information, including a photo, of the probationers as they check in. Changes of address, employment and contact with law enforcement can all be verified in minutes and any discrepancies can be followed up on quickly. Of the more than 1,000 probationers assigned to Kiosk program, 90 percent have consistently check in on time, freeing officers to focus on the more complex and less compliant probationers, yet ensuring that public safety is not compromised. The program has become even more important as counties take on the monitoring role for low-level parolees as a result of realignment.

County Government works, which is why Californians prefer to have programs and services managed and operated at the local level. The county programs featured by CSAC during County Government Month are 2011 CSAC Challenge Award recipients. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Call for Entries for the 2012 CSAC Challenge Awards is being distributed this month.

Erin Treadwell is CSAC’s Communication Coordinator. She can be reached at etreadwell(at)counties.org.