The Texas Association of Counties recently awarded six 2013 Best Practices Awards for the entire state of Texas, and Collin County received two.

The County Best Practices Awards Program was created to recognize the efforts of county ledaers in creating new, efficient and effective services to challenges facing local governments. The Best Practices Program honors counties for their accomplishments, inspires leaders to develop improved programs, and creates an avenue for promoting replicable and proven solutions to county government concerns.

2013 Best Practice Award for Collin County: The Tire Shark

After the Collin County Public Works Department joined forces with the Collin County Sheriff's Office to battle the illegal dumping happening along its county roads and creek beds, the county faced a new problem: what to do with all the tires it had collected. The county had collected tons of old tires, and disposal of the tires would cost the county thousands of dollars each year.

Instead, county road and bridge employees decided to design and build their own machine that could cut tires in half. The department spent about $2,000 on a hydraulic pump and gas motor, put the pieces together and created a working portable shredder, which they affectionately dubbed the Tire Shark. The Tire Shark has served the county well for three years now, slicing through more than 20,000 tires and saving the county more than $100,000 in disposal fees. At 200 tons of collected tires, a $2,200 investment saved the county $93,428.87.

2013 Best Practice Award for Collin County: Marks, Brands and Tattoos

Ranching has been important business in Texas from the beginning, but not all aspects of it have evolved with time. The registration of livestock is one such practice: it has pretty much stayed the same since the first livestock brand was registered in 1869. In Texas, brand registration, which occurs at county clerks' offices, is good for 10 years. If a brand isn't registered or re-registered within a specific timeframe, that brand is up for grabs.

Coming into 2011, Collin County Clerk Stacey Kemp knew that she was in for a lot of brand registrations, which take quite a lot of time. Previously, livestock owners would have to come to the clerk's office, verify their brand was unique, complete an application and a hand-drawing of the marking, and complete a two-part registration card that required another drawing of the marking. The process took at least 40 minutes each time, according to Ms. Kemp.

Ms. Kemp wanted to make the process more efficient and convenient by putting it online, so she talked to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the county's information technology department about creating a web-based renewal and registration process. She also talked to state Rep. Ken Paxton about amending the Texas Agriculture Code to allow for electronic registration, which the Legislature agreed to. Kemp then scanned her county's brand book, created a database containing all the required registration information and archived the digital images of the brands. Kemp put the brand book online and worked with her county's IT department to create a web-based application that could assign identification numbers to livestock owners and make the process more convenient and efficient for ranchers.