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From the Desk of County Commissioner
 Jim Martin

(2/2013) The Changing Faces of County Government

Over the course of 2012 Adams County governance has undergone a facelift brought about by an all-new Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Qually reflected on this in last month’s "From the Desk". The question I perceived in the minds of many was, would we (the commissioners) create a positive face for Adams County? Through the efforts of our courthouse team and a board of commissioners that genuinely recognizes the need to work together, a positive atmosphere has begun to take shape. The common threads that bring us together are equity, fairness, and respect. Our work in this direction is validated when we are greeted with,"Keep up the good work; you are doing a good job." We certainly appreciate those remarks, but to continue a good job will require a constant "foot on the throttle" through good planning and awareness. At our next community forum we will be sharing how we plan to accomplish this. This forum will be our first for 2013 and will be held at the Fairfield Fire & EMS, 106 Steelman St., Fairfield, on February 13, 2013, from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the valuable support and assistance that our state legislators have provided us. State Senator Alloway, State Representatives Moul and Tallman have helped us shape the face of Adams County. These men have regularly communicated and met with us to address issues from top to bottom and from bottom up. They have been instrumental in keeping our Redevelopment Assistance for Capital Projects financial grant on course. We are hopeful that Adams County will soon receive a positive announcement concerning the RACP awards. Should we receive these grant funds from the state, the funds would help pay expenses related to the new county-wide emergency radio project.

Another aspect of the changing face of Adams County is our availability and access to the public through meeting with various entities and individuals throughout Adams County. This advantage has been afforded to us by having greater latitude in our schedule. This is made possible by having capable staff effectively and efficiently presenting and researching administrative matters to be addressed. The latitude that we are afforded also represents the value of having a knowledgeable county manager who multitasks well and having an accomplished chief clerk who brings a wealth of experience to the table regarding county operations.

We certainly value the time we have had to be available to the public. This has given us excellent networking opportunities to keep us informed of concerns from around the county. Most recently we were able to attend an Ag Issues Breakfast Forum. As a side bar of that meeting, it was said that if you feed the commissioners they will come. There may be a correlation, but truthfully it is our appetite for the content of the meeting. Through the forum we received greater insight into agricultural law and a pending challenge to Adams County’s perishable fruit and vegetable production. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission ( SRBC )is promulgating regulations that will limit the withdrawal of water from surface or underground sources. This SRBC regulation would seriously limit the water needed to produce and process perishable agricultural products. With the commissioners’ support, preparation of a county-leadership response to the proposal was initiated. A formal response will be delivered to the SRBC as part of public hearings regarding water withdrawal limits. .

A challenge that we face for the coming year is, can we duplicate ending 2013 with a substantial general fund surplus as we did in 2012 and maintain our current level of services? I am not highly confident that the economy on the horizon will help us generate substantial revenues. Realistically, I anticipate tightening of state and federal funding coming to the county. Yes, real estate sales have increased, but the additional revenues generated do not appear to be sufficient for a significant impact. So looking at a very flat or diminishing revenue stream, we need to be vigilant to maintain efficiency of operation and seeking cost saving opportunities wherever they may be found. Is there a saturation point for finding means to save additional dollars? There probably is, but we are confident that investing in cost saving technologies, efficiencies of operation and affective utilization of employees and hours worked will help counter diminishing revenue and the inevitable rising costs.

One possibility that other counties are considering to reduce costs is the hiring of a risk manager. Adams County,as well as other counties, has recently been offered liability insurance premium reductions of 5% provided we hire a full-time risk manager. Our calculations show that the 5% reduction will more than pay the salary of a risk manager. Risk managers are commonly found in the corporate world as a sound practice to minimizing expenses. Studies indicate that when a risk manager is part of management, the number of insurance claims has sufficiently declined to produce additional insurance premium savings. I am sure we will be giving further consideration to the option of having a risk manager among other viable proposals.

As I close I am both grateful and thankful that our inaugural year ended with a substantial budget surplus and that the 2013 budget was balanced solely from projected revenues. This is a product of conscientious staff and elected officials exercising prudent financial management. Regretfully, we have witnessed the financial struggle of surrounding counties as they finished 2012 with depleted funds and entered 2013 having to raise taxes and dismissing more than 40 county employees. In 2013 we do not intend to go down such a path, but pledge to use the best information and resources available to guide our financial decisions.

Best regards, Jim Martin

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