The county adapted service delivery models to the modified operating environment of a pandemic, ensuring our residents were able to continue accessing and obtaining support from their local government. We learned and took advantage of technology to facilitate meetings, communicate key information and get work done. Some specific examples of the ingenuity and flexibility include:
- With a 42 percent increase in permits and plans, the IT department and Development Services designed an application to improve efficiency and provide a single avenue for citizens, contractors and developers. The project is in the testing phase now and allows applicants to check status of projects via an online portal.
- Library Services developed 12 virtual programs, implemented interlibrary loans, curbside service, a three-day-per-week delivery schedule, eCards for residents to access online resources, and online library card applications.
- Veterans Services began utilizing software to file claims electronically for veterans, dependents and surviving spouses – saving time and allowing staff to work from home.
- Human Resources conducted virtual interviews and attended their first virtual job fair. The office maintained critical employee training through the use of virtual classes and recorded training videos on the Santa Rosa County Specific Helpful Online Rapid Training (SHORT) channel.
Additional 2020 Santa Rosa County highlights include:
The Economic Development Office officially broke ground on the $10 million capital improvement project at Whiting Aviation Park along with a new hangar facility at Peter Prince Field. These improvements support the arrival of Leonardo, an aviation company that will bring 50 high-paying jobs to the area. Additional Triumph Gulf Coast funding totaling $9.5 million was awarded for Santa Rosa Industrial Park East and I-10 Industrial Park which will soon be home to five additional job-creating projects.
For the first time ever, the Animal Shelter saw its kennels empty - finding homes for each adoptable pet. Officers began returning pets in-field to owners, assisting with food and spay/neuter vouchers for those with financial hardships. The shelter also improved the volunteer program, grew its foster base significantly - a lifesaver for young kittens - added a surgical suite for spays and neuters, and started a community cat program.
The extension office’s annual farm tour went virtual. While a typical tour sells out at 200 attendees, the virtual tour – which includes visually stunning drone footage - is available to all for free on Facebook and YouTube.
Faced with a pandemic, tornado, fire and hurricane, public safety, emergency management and public information office consistently provided a high level of service to the community with multiple EOC activations, local states of emergency and increased coordination with the county health department. Community outreach grew significantly with more than 500 news releases sent to over 6,000 subscribers, on top of 50 percent increase in social media followers. These departments and others coordinated the use of county facilities at no cost for food drives, and county employees in many departments volunteered to serve.
The environmental department opened a 15-acre municipal waste disposal cell at the Central Landfill – a timely addition with 600 cubic yards of storm debris and the recent significant increase in solid waste disposal. The department also added an environmental compliance and natural resource management division to meet our goal of improved water quality.
The year 2020 taught us some tough lessons, but we have persevered and are better for it. Here's to putting that hard-earned experience to work paving a new path for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2021 pursuing our mission of "Serving our community ... committed to excellence."
The annual report document is available online and contains this information and more. The document is designed to communicate a detailed report of each county department and its fiscal year 2020 accomplishments.
For more information, contact the Santa Rosa County Office of Management and Budget, 850-983-1953.
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