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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Apr. 28, 2014 5 years ago

City may spend $1 million on software

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by: Wayne Grant Real Estate Editor

Officials hope for greater efficiency, transparency.

Computer updates have become a fact of life. One day you’re state-of-the-art; the next day you’re obsolete.

That’s not only true for consumers, but also businesses and government. That’s why the city of Ormond Beach is planning to spend $800,000, and possibly as much as $1 million, for new software that will affect every department in the city.

The City Commission approved sending out a request for proposals at their last meeting for a company to provide software and training.

“Hopefully, it will fundamentally change our accounting, planning and development software and take us into the 21st-century,” said City Manager Joyce Shanahan.

The software package is called an “enterprise resource system” and allows different departments to share information, including land management, planning, engineering, business permitting, financial, utilities, human resource, public works and code enforcement.

“There are a number of specialties that we need to cover in this system, and they need to interface with one another,” said Finance Director Kelly McGuire. “That’s the challenge, finding a system that does everything well.”

The city's current enterprise system was implemented in the late 1980s. Despite occasional updates, the system is “extremely antiquated and the processes required by the system are often inefficient,” according to a city document.

“It’s antiquated in the sense that it’s very difficult to extract information,” McGuire said.

To prepare the city’s annual report, staff must extract information from a variety of different reports and then put them all together. McGuire said hundreds for man-hours would be saved if reports could be produced directly by the system.

“We’re looking at being more efficient, saving staff time and providing greater transparency,” McGuire said. “If we can extract financial information more readily, then we can make it more available to the public more readily.”

She explained that many cities have implemented “dash board” web pages where a citizen can easily see how much money has been spent by the various city departments or how property tax has been spent.

Getting approval for permits could be streamlined by a new system, by allowing plans to be submitted electronically. Currently, submittals are done on paper.

“Instead of coming down to City Hall, you could apply for permit at your computer,” Kelley said. “You could schedule inspections online.”

A new system could also make it easier for citizens to deal with City Hall, by integrating a voice response system. A person could call and find out the status of their utility bill 24 hours a day.

Also, currently, if a person receives a call about a delinquent utility bill, they must hang up and then call the city to make a payment. With a new integrated system, the resident would be able to make the payment right away over the phone.

“We’ll still be here at City Hall if you want to talk to someone in person,” McGuire said. “We just want to make things more convenient. We don’t want to be impersonal.”

Many other areas in the city could be affected by a new enterprise resource system, including Human Resources, which could improve its job applicant process; and grants writing, which currently operates on its own system.

The project was originally planned in 2011, but McGuire said the city was not comfortable with the contracts which were offered.

“This is a significant project,” McGuire said. “We want to be certain if we have a contract that there are certain bench marks they meet before meet before receive payment.”

In 2011, $800,000 was budgeted for the project and that money is still available in the capital purchases budget. City documents state that “based upon results from the RFP issued in 2011, the budgeted amount may prove insufficient. If additional funding is needed, staff will provide alternative funding sources when an award recommendation is made.”

McGuire said it’s a significant amount of money, but “we expect to utilize for 20 or 30 years, like the last one.”

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