|One final facet of helping preserve what makes Vermont special is providing outstanding service in an efficient, effective, and inclusive manor. We in the Agency see Vermonters as our neighbors, not simply as constituents.
The Agency has identified four specific points of focus under this goal: involving Vermonters in Agency decisions; providing excellent customer service; coordinating with partners; and seeking to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations. They are expressed here as distinct outcomes of the way we will strive for continuous improvement in the way we do business during the next five years. These outcomes describe what we expect of our operation in public involvement, customer service, partnerships, and in seeking ways to continuously improve the way we operate.
There is a continuing, and perhaps growing, need to communicate with and involve the public in the full range of natural resource and development issues in Vermont. Many of these issues are complex and evolving rapidly. Working with Vermonters who are informed and engaged in the stewardship of Vermonts natural resources improves our ability to carry out our mission and ultimately provides better protection of our state's natural resources. We are already moving in this direction. For instance, the previously mentioned Lands Conservation Plan: A Land Acquisition Strategy for the Agency of Natural Resources, approved in 1999, was written over three years with extensive public input; the plan it replaced, adopted by the Agency 14 years earlier, was an internally written document.
Excellent customer service will be a priority in every aspect of our work. In particular, we will find ways to provide better service in matters of permits and regulatory processes. This will mean better internal coordination and effective use of our technology. Customer surveys filled out by Vermonters who have been through Agency permitting processes in recent years indicate that the great majority of permit applicants rate the permitting experience as above average to excellent, and more than 95 percent say Agency staff members are helpful and courteous. While we consider this good, we know there is always room for improvement.
Working effectively with other agencies of Vermont government and private entities is essential to our success in natural resource management and customer service. Strategies throughout this plan require close coordination with Vermont Agencies of Transportation, Human Services, and Commerce and Community Development, as well as the Departments of Agriculture, Public Service, and Education.
Continuous improvement in all our operations will remain our steady focus. In the next five years we will install the first new financial management system for the Agency in more than 20 years. We will increase our use of the Internet and other information technologies. We will develop measures of our performance that directly relate to our strategic and annual operating plans, and to our financial and personnel management systems. In evaluating our performance, we will work with Vermonters, our partners, and our staff to continuously find ways to improve the quality and efficiency of our operations.
Vermont as a place where neighbors
Disseminating information about natural resources is one of the Agency's most important jobs. During the 1990s, the World Wide Web emerged as an important means of providing such information. The Agency's website contains news releases, descriptions of state lands, an online permit tracking system, information on recycling and producing less waste, the annual Environment reports, and much, much more. As more Americans use the web as part of their everyday lives, the Agency will expand its online presence. Within two years, people should be able to make State Park reservations online, and more GIS data layers are constantly being added to the Agency website.
The Agency also strives to provide excellent service by working with Vermonters not simply as customers but also as neighbors. The Agency operates five regional offices, and each office has a permit specialist, regional engineers, biologists, and other professionals who can provide myriad services and advice--from ideas on how to manage property for better wildlife habitat to advice on applying for a subdivision permit to suggestions for improving a woodlot. Permit specialists play a critical role in offering assistance and guidance to help applicants understand all state--not just Agency--permit processes.