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​The County Manager's Responses to Your Suggestions
​From the first day we opened the virtual Suggestion Box on my web page, your thoughtful and insightful comments poured in. Now it’s time to see how we can implement some of your changes or explain why we can’t. Check back here often for new responses and please, keep the suggestions coming! Many of the suggestions we have received pertain to specific departments. While respecting anonymity, the County Manager has shared those suggestions with department directors. Department directors will provide responses and follow-up actions as appropriate.

SUGGESTION BOX RESPONSES



The nurses working within our schools should be allowed to wear scrubs daily rather than professional attire.
I agree, and this suggestion was implemented at the start of the 2014-2015 school year. Thank you for the important work that you do and keep those suggestions coming!


I am experiencing some challenges with noise and overhearing conversations while working in Valerie C. Woodard. Would the County consider making changes to the work environment to address this concern?
The Valerie C. Woodard Center has a noise-masking system that mitigates the effects of noise in an open office environment. I have directed staff at Asset and Facility Management to raise the volume of the system to help further mitigate noise/privacy concerns in the immediate future.


Is there a way to better maintain the County grounds at certain work locations?
I absolutely agree with you that we can do better about maintaining County grounds and ensuring that grass is mowed on a more regular basis. Additional funding was allocated in FY15 budget, and maintenance services should have already been increased over the past several months. If you have not noticed an improvement, please email Asset and Facility Manager Director Mark Hahn (Mark.Hahn@mecklenburgcountync.gov) so that he can follow up with the contracted vendor(s).


Is there something that can be done for employees who are not able to attend Employee Fest due to a business need?
Thank you for making me aware of this issue. Yes – my staff worked with Department Directors to identify locations that staff could not leave during the Employee Fest hours and pizzas were delivered to those staff. Thank you for a great suggestion!


Explain how the budget for merit increases works.
The FY15 Budget included funds to pay for an average merit increase of 3% (based on the market rate for the job). While the expected and budgeted average was 3%, the County’s merit matrix provides flexibility to departments to provide increases based on employee performance which can range from 0 - 4.5%. While departments are instructed to manage to the allocated merit budget, individual employee merit increases should be based on performance. Click here for more information on the County’s compensation philosophy.


We need to promote the good things that the County does. We only hear about the bad things.
I agree that in the past we have not done as good of a job as we could have to promote all of the good things the County has done, however we have been focusing on trying to improve in this area. In my FY15 work-plan, I have committed to bolstering our communication efforts because I agree that this is critical.

Public Information sends out messages to local media through multiple channels virtually every day (however news operations don’t always elect to broadcast them). From web stories, news releases, media advisories, social media and face to face conversations, we strive to tell the County’s story. Recently, many outlets provided great coverage of multiple new park openings in town.

In addition, great stories about the County and its employees can be found on MecklenburgCountyNC.gov and also in Outlook magazine, MeckWeb, Employee News Now and more. Finally, our website is on the verge of a major overhaul that will make it even easier for residents and employees to navigate the site and find out exactly what’s going on in Mecklenburg County.


I would like to request that some modifications be made at the back lot of the Chapin Hall to address issues with the gravel being uneven, pot holes and the gates.
As a result of your concerns, the Asset and Facility Management Department recently completed a paving project that alleviates the potholes, streams, and access problems associated with the gates. Thank you for this suggestion.


How are the working conditions in the basement of Hal Marshall being addressed, specifically the sewage leak?
The recent leaks in the basement of the Hal Marshall Center were very unfortunate, and we regret the inconvenience and poor working conditions it caused County employees and clients. The building is old, and we hope to sell the property within the next 4-5 years. The sewage problems were caused by a bad seal around a floor drain in the restroom above your offices. The seal on the drain has been repaired, but we also wanted to go beyond a one-time fix.

Accordingly, Asset and Facility Management had the sewer piping inspected, and while there are no guarantees, it appeared to be in good condition and did not need complete replacement. We’ll continue to monitor the conditions in the building and take appropriate actions to assure the well-being of building occupants until the property is sold.


There should be an easier process for a current employee to apply for a new County job. The County employee has to go through the same process as external candidates; internal candidates should have priority for jobs.
I agree that we need to provide more assistance to employees trying to advance in the County.

The process of submitting an application will most likely to continue to be required, however the human resources department will begin sending recruiters out to various locations for meet-and-greet sessions starting in early 2015. These sessions will provide an opportunity for staff to drop in and meet the recruiters, discuss career goals and get some pointers on resumes and cover letters. This will provide a unique opportunity for staff to network and get questions answered about the recruitment process first hand. Look for more information over the next few months about this program.


Can the County consider reinstating bariatric surgery as a procedure covered under the medical plan?
I am pleased to let you know that based on this suggestion, I have instructed HR to reinstate this as a procedure covered under our Cigna medical plan effective January 1, 2015. There are some restrictions. Employees interested in utilizing this benefit should contact HR for more information. Thank you for the suggestion and feedback.

 

Can you elaborate on what MyTime is?
I have received many questions regarding myTIME. We have created a myTIME icon within MeckWeb for easy access to important and helpful information

 

Employee Classification & Compensation
I have received several inquiries regarding employees' job classification and compensation. These are very specific to each individuals' situation and often require more information and discussions to determine an appropriate response. I want to strongly encourage you to share your questions and concerns with your direct supervisor. You may also contact Human Resources via 2-myHR for information about the appropriate process and/or additional guidance as needed.

 

I am interested in furthering my career with the County. What options are available for me to learn about other areas and expand my current skill set?
One component of the Board's FY14-FY15 Strategic Planning Agenda is to implement a formal workforce/succession planning process. Consequently, beginning next month, succession planning is set to begin for three County departments: Finance, Medical Examiner's Office and Park & Recreation. These processes will be rolled out to other County departments over the course of FY15 and FY16. I have also charged our learning and development services team to create multiple development opportunities for employees at all levels of the organization.

 


Is there a process in place for supervisors to get performance feedback from their staff?
Some County departments already complete 360 degree reviews, which is a tool utilized to gather feedback from staff at multiple levels of the organization – including any direct reports – and it is typically confidential. While I believe this is a valuable tool that can be utilized to gain input, it is not mandatory across the organization.

 

Why can't I use sick time if I am missing work due to inclement weather?
The County participates in the North Carolina Local Governmental Employees' Retirement System (LGERS). LGERS permits unused sick leave to be as additional retirement service credit provided that the sick leave is earned under a duly adopted sick leave policy. The County's current sick leave policy mimics the State's policy in that the intention of sick leave is to be used when you are unable to work due to illness, attending medical related appointments and/or are caring for sick dependents. Unfortunately, missing work due to inclement weather does not fit that premise and we want to continue to align the out-sick policy with that of the State.

 

Can the County provide employees who need a County cell phone with the option of a stipend to use toward their personal cell phone instead of requiring them to carry two phones? A “bring your own device” option was discussed with the Executive Team last year and it was determined that the County would not pursue that option at that time. There is a significant risk associated with allowing employees to send and receive County information on personal devices. While I do understand the convenience of having one device, we must consider the liability impact to the County which, in this case, is too great.

 


Can the County review the current bilingual pay policy?
Every several years, Human Resources conducts a comprehensive market review to ensure that the County's pay is competitive within the industry and region for like jobs. I will ask HR to additionally review bilingual pay to ensure competitiveness as part of the next review.

 

How is the decision made when to close or delay County operations when there is inclement weather? Can this decision be made the night before work?
When there is inclement weather, or the threat of inclement weather, I am in constant communication with many business partners including the Charlotte Department of Transportation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

As I am made aware of the conditions of the roads by the Department of Transportation, I make the most informed decision that I can, with as much notice as possible. I am hesitant to make the decision to cancel or suspend County operations based only on the possibility of inclement weather as we all can think of many times when weather predictions were inaccurate. Often the school systems must make decisions earlier due to the early bus schedules. As a steward of taxpayer's funds, I believe we have a responsibility to remain open as long as it is safe and feasible to do so.

 

Why doesn't every County facility have an exclusively designated area for lactation?
As I have mentioned, the County is currently at the beginning phase of a comprehensive facilities master plan study. I will be requesting that identifying dedicated lactation spaces throughout County facilities be part of that study. I also have directed Asset and Facility Management to concurrently begin assessing the possibility of dedicated lactation spaces at existing facilities with the goal of having at least one dedicated space at each of the major County facilities.

In the meantime, I want to clarify that it is my expectation that no individual requesting space for lactation be asked to do so in a bathroom. Page 57 of the Human Resources Policy manual states:

In accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) Mecklenburg County will provide accommodations for nursing mothers to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to one year after birth by doing the following:
  1. ​Designated Space - Mecklenburg County will provide a designated place, other than a bathroom, shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. ​

  2. Time - Mecklenburg County will provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk. Mecklenburg County will compensate employees for this break time." ​
If any supervisor/manager is not following the policy above, please immediately talk to your director and/or Human Resources and appropriate action will be taken..

 

Can the County review the current holiday schedule (particularly for Christmas) and consider adding another holiday for Veterans Day and/or Presidents Day?
I will ask Human Resources to conduct a holiday survey to determine what the common holidays and schedules are to ensure competitiveness. The last time that the County reviewed the number of holidays being offered, we were competitive compared both to the private and public sectors. I recognize that the State of North Carolina does provide some different holidays and scheduling than we do which affect some, but not all, of the services provided by the County. I am committed to reviewing the data over the course of FY15 to determine if the County should consider any changes in the future. The holiday schedule has already been set through 2016 and any changes to existing holidays would be made for 2017 or beyond.

 

Many cities across the United States have begun to offer municipal identification cards for their citizens regardless of immigration status or other factors that usually keep people from accessing proper identifications cards. The number of benefits from these identification cards are innumerable and cities like New Haven can attest to its success. Are there any plans in the works to do the same in Charlotte? If not, would the city consider this?
While there is not a definitive answer to this now, I am currently engaged in discussions about how this could be accomplished. We will provide an update as soon as there is additional information to share.

 

Would the County consider having a "career day" in which we can engage high school students interested in County-related careers?
I will discuss this suggestion with Superintendent Heath Morrison so we can work together and strategically identify opportunities for this type of a program. Thank you for the great suggestion!​

 


Employee Classification & Compensation
I have received several inquiries regarding employees' job classification and compensation. These are very specific to each individuals' situation and often require more information and discussions to determine an appropriate response. I want to strongly encourage you to share your questions and concerns with your direct supervisor. You may also contact Human Resources via 2-myHR for information about the appropriate process and/or additional guidance as needed.

 

Employee Recognition and Service Awards
I have received several suggestions regarding how employees are rewarded and recognized for their hard work. The County just launched a new employee appreciation program called “Above & Beyond @ Work” to recognize exceptional employees nominated by their peers. Winners receive a $500 cash award, an engraved award, and recognition at a Board of County Commissioners meeting. Additionally, department directors currently have the option of providing one-time cash awards to recognize outstanding performance. 

I will continue to evaluate other options for rewarding and recognizing employees over the course of FY15, including the full reinstatement of the County’s service award program, the offering of additional vacation days and a more formalized approach to the use of cash awards by departments. Lapel pins are currently available for “milestone” (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc.) service anniversaries. The Human Resources department oversees disbursement of lapel pins. Please contact the Employee Services Center (2-myHR) if you have not received your pin.


Teleworking and Flexible Work Schedules
There have been multiple suggestions/questions submitted regarding the County's teleworking and/or flexible work schedule policies. Any requests for teleworking and/or a modified work week, including a compressed schedule, must be approved by your Department Director or designee. Normal County business hours tend to run 8:00-5:00pm (for most departments) and it is my expectation that Directors make staffing decisions based on providing the highest level of customer service during business hours. As business needs and workload permits Directors to offer flexibility, I encourage them to do so in an equitable and consistent manner.


Additionally, please understand that recently the County had to restrict teleworking to North Carolina to ensure compliance with all applicable tax laws. This decision was not made without thorough research and careful consideration.

You may review the County's HR policies on work schedules by clicking here.

Suggestion: Would it be possible to implement an online employee store where we would be able to replace our worn shirts, ID clips, etc.? Thanks! Response:
I think this is a great idea and I will be studying to determine how the organization can implement this.
Suggestion: An employee reports having strong reactions to the fragrances worn by coworkers and customers. The employee requests that the County consider adopting a Fragrance Free Policy for County facilities.
I sympathize with the employee's sensitivity to fragrances. While a Fragrance Free Policy may not be feasible, I encourage all managers and supervisors to be responsive to employees' health concerns and to work with employees to find solutions on a case-by-case basis.
Suggestion: An employee wants the County to make Purchasing Power available to staff.
“Purchasing Power” is a program that allows employees to make online purchases and then make payments on those purchases through the use of a payroll deduction. In recent years, the County has made a business decision to streamline as many processes as possible, including payroll. As you will recall, we recently combined charitable giving campaigns which allowed us to manage contributions through one payroll deduction, versus many separate ones. In addition, the County makes every effort to ensure equity when selecting vendors that will have access via payroll deduction. There are many other companies in the community that have solicited the County and it is difficult to add one without adding another. Due to these reasons, this is not a program that the County will pursue in the immediate future.
Suggestion: Why did the County eliminate the retiree medical benefit for employees hired after July 1, 2010?
Removing retiree medical insurance eligibility for employees hired after July 1, 2010 was a difficult decision to make, and one that was ultimately approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The County did not believe that it was financially feasible or sustainable to continue providing this benefit in the future. Many other local government entities, including the City of Charlotte, have made similar decisions. Human Resources staff are looking into ways to provide staff who are not eligible for retiree medical with other options to save for and purchase plans in the future.
Suggestion: I would join a county fitness center but they are all far from the office and my home. Any chance we c ould get a fitness center closer to Social Services/Behavioral Health/Watkins Center?
There are no county sponsored fitness centers in that area and unfortunately, there are no plans to build one at this time. However, our Park and Recreation department does offer discounts to County employees and their family members at the following facilities: 
  • ​Mecklenburg Aquatic Center
  • Ray's Splash Planet
  • Mallard Creek Recreation Center Fitness Center
  • Southview Recreation Center Fitness Center
  • Tuckaseegee Recreation Center Fitness Center
  • West Charlotte Recreation Center Fitness Center
  • Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center Fitness Center
  • Revolution Park Sports Academy


 
Facilities and Security
We have received several employee suggestions about building maintenance, space, and security in buildings and parking lots. 

The County has recently engaged a consultant to do a government facilities master plan. The results of this study will most likely affect the County’s long term plan for multiple facilities. 

If you have specific security concerns, please contact security@mecklenburgcountync.gov. Of course, if you are in an immediate emergency situation, call 911.
Suggestion: We should have access through the County’s insurance plan to prescription medications to help quit smoking.
Thank you for this great suggestion. We have good news!
Effective January 1, 2015, we have added Chantix and other smoking cessation drugs to the drug formulary. We will have the details available during Open Enrollment starting in November 2014.
Employee Relations
Some employee suggestions submitted pertain to concerns about employee interactions with and treatment by their supervisors. As County Manager, I expect all managers, supervisors and employees to follow the County’s HR policies and procedures. The Employee Relations section of the Mecklenburg County Human Resources Policy and Procedure Manual describes County expectations for employee performance, conduct and attendance, as well as prohibited practices. These policies and procedures are intended to protect both front line employees and management because we all want to work in a safe and fair environment. 

Specifically the manual includes the following statements:

The County is strongly and actively committed to equal opportunity employment in the workplace. As such, harassment on the job because of sex, race, religion, age, national origin, disability or sexual orientation will not be tolerated.

It is unlawful for an employer to take retaliatory action against any individual who opposes employment practices that are prohibited by law and County policy.
If employees have concerns, I encourage them to discuss those concerns with their supervisors. I understand that this can sometimes be uncomfortable, so employees may confidentially contact the Human Resources department to discuss options and approaches to resolving their concerns. This can be done by calling the Employee Services Center at (704) 432-6947 or via email to myHR@mecklenburgcountync.gov.
Suggestion: The County should offer stress management classes like yoga or Thai Chi and offer discounts at YMCA.
Response: Unfortunately, the YMCA does not offer discounts unless a payroll deduction system is set up with an organization. However, our Park and Recreation department does offer discounts to County employees and their family members at certain facilities around the county. Click here for more information and a list of participating Park and Rec facilities. Several Park and Rec locations have offered yoga and Thai Chi classes periodically. For a list of Park and Rec programs, please check out the Get Going Guide which is published quarterly.

In addition, Cigna members can take advantage of discounts for fitness activities, products, and other health-related perks. To access this information, simply log on to your Cigna account and type in “Healthy Rewards” in the search box. The County offers onsite stress management classes periodically through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Employees and their household members can access assistance in managing stress through our EAP at 800-327-2251 or www.bhsonline.com.

Lastly, for County Cigna members, the county now offers a comprehensive, self-paced stress management program through the Cigna Lifestyle Management Program. This program is free for any Cigna member on the county plan over the age of 18. For more information, call 855-246-1873 or log onto your Cigna account at www.myCigna.com.

Suggestion: Open a County-operated daycare facility for employees’ children.
Although a worthy idea for consideration, after review it was determined that it is not financially feasible for the County to offer the benefit of a day care facility. The County’s Employee Assistance Program can help employees explore child care options through its referral services. The EAP Program may help with the following issues:

  • Before and after school programs
  • Day care
  • Emergency and back-up care
  • Nurseries
  • Preschools
  • Special needs
  • Summer camp

Also, Child Care Resources Inc. is a local agency that provides information regarding day care facilities and finding quality child care in Mecklenburg County.


Suggestion: Remove automatic computer locking.
Business driven exceptions to the County policy are addressed by department directors contacting the Chief Technology Officer. An example of an exception is extended time for Health Department dental clinicians. Ask your department director to make the request.

Suggestion: Wearing jeans on Friday is a great boost to the morale for all employees. Can all employees wear jeans on Fridays?
I understand how wearing jeans to work is comfortable -- and certainly, some jeans are very stylish.

In many cases, jeans on Friday is perfectly acceptable. In other cases, such as in my office where we frequently meet with elected officials, it is just not appropriate. Department directors are allowed to set department-specific dress codes based on the business needs of their department. Please ask your supervisor to find out more about the options for your department.

Thanks again for the suggestion.


Suggestion: Instead of the Employee Appreciation Day event, find alternatives for recognizing employees such as extra vacation days or gift cards.
The Employee Appreciation Day event has been a very popular event over the past few years. Still, I am constantly looking for innovative approaches to rewarding and recognizing employees. Gift cards are viewed by the IRS as taxable income, so unfortunately, that is not a viable option. However, many other options (including offering additional vacation days) will be reviewed and assessed.

We just launched a new employee appreciation program called “Above & Beyond @ Work” to recognize exceptional employees nominated by their peers. Winners receive a $500 cash award, an engraved award, and recognition at a Board of County Commissioners meeting. You can read more about this program here.


Suggestion: Recycling and promoting other sustainable practices is very important. Can the County install water bottle refill stations and recycling containers in all County buildings, parks, recreation centers, etc.?
A at this time, there are no plans to install water bottle refill stations or permanent recycling amenities in public park facilities due to prohibitive cost, but we do plan to continue providing temporary recycling collection facilities during large events such as Festival in the Park, and the Bark in the Park Top Dog Festival.

Mecklenburg County is putting an Environmental Sustainability Plan in place across all County departments. In this plan, a goal for waste minimization and recycling is included.

Through this plan, we have identified the following activities to help us reach our internal goals:

  • A County Waste Reduction and Recycling Policy and Program has been drafted by a team of representatives from various departments across the County, and is in the process of gaining approval.
  • This policy and program would also seek to identify additional materials for recycling.
  • We are "standardizing" the internal recycling containers and information provided throughout County facilities to minimize any confusion regarding the materials that can be accepted.

During last fiscal year (FY13), the County accomplished 21.2% recycling of our total waste stream (or, everything that is thrown away during the course of business), and we have a goal this year to reach 22% recycling of our total waste stream. In other words, almost a quarter of what we throw away is being diverted for recycling.


Suggestion: In the aftermath of the Patrick Cannon corruption charges, create a “Department of Investigation,” with an informative website similar to what New York City has: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doi/html/report/intro.shtml

Maintaining the highest ethical standards for all County employees is of utmost importance to me. The County has an anti-fraud policy and Code of Ethics to inform employees of its zero tolerance for fraud and other unethical behaviors.

The County has a secure, completely anonymous hotline (The Report Line) that employees can call or email to report their concerns of potential fraud. A link that tells employees more about the hotline and how to make a report is on the main page of the County's intranet. These reports are taken by a third-party vendor and sent to the Department of Internal Audit for review to decide next steps. Unless a name is provided to the third-party vendor, Internal Audit does not know the identity of the caller.

If the initial investigation results in a full investigation, the results of that investigation result in a report with recommendations to prevent the same or similar activity in the future. The investigation reports are placed on the Department of Internal Audit's external website, along with internal audit reports, for any citizen to read.

Further, Internal Audit developed a fraud awareness training that was first presented in 2014 to teach employees about the signs of fraud, their responsibility to report fraud, and the means by which they can do so. This training reemphasized the existence and purpose of the hotline, as well as how employees could report any concerns of fraud.

Internal Audit is currently working with Public Information to carry out a second marketing phase on the hotline to strengthen employees’ awareness and use of the hotline.

Lastly, Internal Audit is working with Human Resources to develop a more robust Ethics Program that includes a required annual ethics training for employees that we hope to roll out later this year or early next year.



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