Plantation has some catching up to do in the digital world. All of us in city hall know it, and we’re working on it.
Such customer services as more efficient utility billing, computerized permitting and a better web site are on the way.
City leaders say the goal is broadly collected under an initiative called “Paperless Plantation,” which simply is moving as many transactions as possible to online. Even rudimentary tasks now – such as having residents print out a PDF, fill it out by hand, then submit to the city, instead of simple online form completion, need an adjustment.
But it’s going to be a multi-year effort.
I could point out the current deficiencies and negatively compare our services to other cities (and I have, privately), but I think it’s best to use this space to explain where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.
Like any improvement, the money – including your tax money – needs to be part of our city budget. Department heads each year provide a list of wishes and necessities and the mayor, with help from staff, compiles a proposed budget. The city council then gives it a look-over and examines potential expenditures before any approval is granted.
Other council members and I expressed long before the required Oct. 1 budget approval date a desire to focus on improving residents’ experience with technology.
The catching up begins with this 2019-2020 budget. The city clerk’s office, with duties that include processing records requests for the public and city employees, is looking to purchase imaging software, to cut down on paper and deploy electronic file transfers instead of requiring trips to their office to pick up printed materials. This year’s budget includes $26,250 for scanning programs and equipment.
The city is still evaluating what to do in terms of more expansive software packages, including whether to seek vendors with applications that will better serve our needs.
If you noticed, the hiring of a new IT director, John Montefusco, was completed with the city council’s approval on Dec. 11. He’s going to have plenty to do, but first off is forming a strategic plan.
Meanwhile, Plantation’s IT department is like those at municipalities everywhere: They’re under threat of hacking every second. Riviera Beach, Baltimore and Atlanta, for example, have seen their systems held hostage.
But when it comes to catching up online, look at it this way: I’m 61 years old, and I see the gaps in our services. I can only imagine what the generation(s) behind me are thinking. I see this as a priority and you’ll likely hear me pushing for changes for as long as I’m in office.
Nick Sortal is President of the Plantation City Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-498-5337.