Montgomery County leader: New public dashboard ‘keeps us honest’

Richard Stock, director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton, talks to teachers and staff about attendance data during a Preschool Promise fall 2019 kickoff session. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Richard Stock, director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton, talks to teachers and staff about attendance data during a Preschool Promise fall 2019 kickoff session. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

While Montgomery County has implemented strategic plans before, the new objectives unveiled Tuesday promise to be measured like never before, with many of the results made public via an online dashboard, county officials said.

“This just really keeps us honest,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Carolyn Rice. “What we say we’re going to do, we’re going to track it and make sure that we actually do what we say we’re going to do.”

The plan will guide county operations and financial investment through 2024, said Kelly Geers, the county’s director of strategic initiatives.

MORE: County to focus on substance abuse, water projects, jail in 2020

Work will begin as soon as Thursday on development of the online dashboard to make metrics public quarterly, if possible, she said.

Geers outlined five key objectives and strategies to hit those goals over the next five years.

The data will look different for each strategy employed, and what is taken into account for some county functions remains under development, Geers said.

“It depends on the strategy and what’s appropriate,” Geers said. “For Preschool Promise, that’s pretty straightforward. Are they kindergarten ready? Because that’s the goal of the program.”

Montgomery County has more than 4,000 employees and a 2020 budget of $914 million, a 5% increase from 2019.

The first objective is building sustainable community infrastructure through continued investment in the county’s water, sewer and solid waste systems as well as other facility improvements, including improvements at a much-maligned Montgomery County Jail.

MORE: Montgomery County seeking proposals for jail expansion

At least 14 lawsuits alleging the mistreatment of inmates at the jail have been filed in recent years, including a class-action lawsuit alleging overcrowding.

Following an independent committee’s review of the jail that generated a report critical of both operations and the facility, county commissioners voted last April to expand the jail.

Plaintiffs asked a federal judge last year to drop the suit that alleged overcrowding, flaws in the grievance process and health and safety concerns. In their motion to dismiss, they cited Montgomery County’s “commitment to invest significant funds in facility improvements with a goal of meeting current detention standards set by accrediting agencies.”

They wrote of other improvements at the jail, saying the grievance process was “completely revised,” that intercom, surveillance and lock upgrades have improved inmate safety and that the average inmate number each day had dropped to just over 700 from 950 a day.

MORE: Plaintiffs ask that jail overcrowding suit be dismissed

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said Tuesday that work on the first phase of a $493,000 jail assessment should wrap up this spring.

The new strategic plan is the first rolled out with Colbert at the helm as well as the first with Rice as a Montgomery County commissioner.

While economic growth remains a priority, more emphasis is being placed on helping citizens lead safer, healthier and more productive lives in this plan, commissioners said.

Other main objectives include helping youth thrive, and countering obstacles that prevent community well-being, such as continued investment in combating infant mortality and for workforce development initiatives for teens and young adults.

MORE: Preschool Promise expands to 3 more communities

The last strategic plan was drafted in 2013 and went through 2016. That plan drew from an initiative called MCOFuture, which hatched a series of public meetings.

Strategies to meet the first objective, sustainable infrastructure, also include addressing deferred maintenance to other county facilities as well as fixing and expanding bridges and roads. Part of that effort supports widening of U.S. 40 in a logistics corridor near the Dayton International Airport.

Rebuilding a job base was a bigger priority in earlier plans after the region was pounded by an economic downturn, said Commissioner Judy Dodge.

A thriving logistics hub near the airport was largely realized from the county’s first strategic plan in 2007, Dodge said.

“The I-75 and I-70 interchange was completely updated,” she said.