San Diego, California - San Diego County led the state in an annual awards program recognizing innovation in county government. The California State Association of Counties this week handed San Diego County seven 2014 Challenge and Merit Awards, which spotlight creative efforts to improve county services and save time and money for residents.

Overall, 18 counties were selected as recipients for the 41 Challenge Awards from more than 200 entries evaluated by an independent panel of judges.

“It’s an honor to have seven San Diego County programs and services recognized,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “It tells us we’re going in the right direction in our efforts to be smart, innovative and cost-effective with public funds, while improving our services for residents.”

A Challenge Award went to the County’s Accela Automation Implementation. Over the last several years, the County implemented a new website to streamline a wide variety of permitting operations. This three-phase project included the replacement of 40 different permitting data systems. The new site allows you to apply for and pay for certain permits online. You can submit plans, ask to schedule an inspection and conduct research on permits and property information.

San Diego received Merit Awards for the following:

Embedding Eligibility Workers at Local Food Banks: County Health and Human Services Agency had staff work at two food bank agencies to enhance access to nutrition assistance and health coverage. This partnership helps provide CalFresh (food stamps) and Medi-Cal application assistance.

Online Building Permits: To reduce the time and cost of processing, as well as to improve customer service, the County’s Planning and Development Services department developed an online application process for roof-mounted solar panels that has cut the processing time in half and eliminated the need for customers to spend time and money driving to County offices to get their building permits.

Paperless Performance Appraisals: The County’s Department of Human Resources improved the administration of performance appraisals by implementing paperless system. This electronic system has saved the County significant annual printing costs and eliminated the labor costs of sorting and mailing forms.

Plan to Eliminate Homelessness for Families: The County established a Special Local Preference for Homeless Families applying for a Housing Choice Voucher Rental Assistance Program –commonly referred to as Section  8. This preference is aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness.

San Diego Emergency Smartphone Application: This mobile application allows users to access critical information to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters in San Diego County, including wildfires. The app is accessible on iPhone, iPad or Android phone and tablet.

Sheriff’s Analysis Driven Law Enforcement (SADLE): The Sheriff's Analysis Driven Law Enforcement team uses traditional investigative techniques along with computer-aided analysis to anticipate and respond to crime trends and hot spots. Overall, the approach has spread through the department and is credited with contributing to a 5 percent reduction in crime in the Sheriff's service areas.