Harford County’s Glassman administration has won a 2016 Achievement Award from NACo, the National Association of Counties, for its public notification system Track-it: The Planning & Zoning Activity Tracker. The nonprofit NACo unites over 3,000 county governments to share best practices and recognizes innovations in county government through its annual achievement awards program.
Track-it is an enhanced system of public notification created by the Harford County Department of Planning & Zoning under County Executive Barry Glassman to keep citizens informed and engaged in the local development process. The Track-it application was internally conceived, designed, and developed using existing hardware, software, and staff to dramatically improve service delivery for citizens without adding to the county budget.
By law, certain types of development in Harford County are subject to a public hearing or public meeting. To inform the public, the county is required to post signage on proposed development sites that includes a description of the project and the public meeting date, time, and location. But this antiquated notification system had significant shortcomings. Signs posted on-site were often difficult or impossible to read from a vehicle, and many sites lack a safe stopping point. The signs themselves offered limited information, meaning that citizens seeking project details had to call or visit county offices during business hours, requiring assistance from county staff. And finally, the sign notification system offered no comprehensive view of development activity countywide.
To improve transparency and public access to information, the Dept. of Planning & Zoning in March of 2015 implemented Track-it, a simple, intuitive Web-based mapping application. Track-it features an interactive map of Harford County with tabbed pages displaying each of the three types of development meetings: Community Input Meetings (CIM), Board of Appeals Hearings (BOA), and Development Advisory Committee Meetings (DAC). Accordingly, the on-site signs were redesigned, simplified, and color-coded to match the tabbed pages of the Web application. The new signs also prominently display the Track-it Web address www.harfordcountymd.gov/trackit to let citizens know that additional project information is available from the convenience of a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
From the Track-it Web page, selecting an individual project icon returns a wealth of information beginning with the meeting date, time and location, contact persons, and project summary. In addition, related project documents from the county’s digital document archive, such as project plans, approvals and meeting summaries are now directly linked to the Track-it application. Documents can be viewed and printed from the Web, saving citizens the time and expense of visiting the department and freeing county staff time previously spent filling document requests.
Track-it drew more than 14,000 users in its first year and has shown multiple measurable results including improved customer service; reduced staff time responding to constituent queries; reduced reproduction costs for associated documents, and enhanced participation in public meetings. Feedback from citizens and the development community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Using technology to improve transparency and customer service is a cornerstone of my administration and I would like to thank NACo for this important recognition,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. “I am also very proud of my Planning & Zoning Director Brad Killian and his team for developing Track-it. Thanks to their efforts, Harford County citizens are empowered to become well-informed and engaged in local planning and development.“