Community Connections in Bryant Convenient With Tech Plan (Technology Advancements | Winner, Between 5,000-20,000)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

The days of citizens knowing every policeman’s name or Sarah the town operator being at the other end of any telephone receiver may long be gone. But if anything, technology should bring more people together, especially when it comes to city government.

In Bryant, city leaders took steps to make their government more accessible, connected and cost-effective. The desired result of a city-wide, fully integrated communication system more responsive to the community has been fulfilled.

It also makes Bryant the winner of the 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction Technology Advancements category for cities with a population between 5,000 and 20,000.

The journey to a more accessible, connected and cost-effective system began in October 2011 when an inventory was taken of the city’s use of technology. The duties performed by employees was analyzed with a goal of improving productivity at a lower cost in mind. Expensive licensed-based software packages were ditched in favor of Google Drive and Gmail, web-based systems offered free with the ability to be used everywhere.

From the inventory, ten goals were set:

1. Rebuild a better network for all city departments with reliable backup plans.

2. Develop, build and launch a new interactive website for the city.

3. Improve Laserfiche, a paperless documentation system, up to full operation.

4. Regularly post city documents such as ordinances and council minutes online.

5. Expedite work orders through the city’s iWorQ program.

6. Develop an intranet site for staffers.

7. Replace outdated telecommunications system with new desk phones, smart phones and tablets.

8. Install large monitors in public meeting places.

9. Update communications and monitoring equipment used by dispatch and emergency services.

10. Link all of the above into one integrated system.

Just over a year later, all ten goals were accomplished. CityofBryant.com fufilled Goal No. 2. Residents can visit that website and see everything from project bids, news on upcoming events and what voting precinct they live in.

“The upgraded city website has streamlined the planning and development process tremendously,” said David Green, the city’s planning director. “People can easily access information, forms and applications at their convenience.”

CityofBryant.com also has an interactive compononet called “Report a Concern” that ties in with Goal No. 5. On its own, iWorQ is a software package that many cities use to track employees, equipment and projects. But by becoming part of an integrated system, iWorQ can now be used to generate work orders once a resident logs in a concern from the city’s website.

“We have streamlined information sharing,”said J.W. Plouch, administration lieutenant for the Bryant Police Department. “Our upgrades allow Bryant 911 cellphone calls to take a direct route to local dispatch and upgraded interface equipment in patrol vehicles mean officers have first-hand, instant access to vital data in the field as they need it. Bottom line is that technology and communications upgrades improve public safety.”

As another example, the city’s animal control department is saving man hours. After compiling its database and fine-tuning modules to match its specific needs, the department can now quickly answer questions about lost pets, document and track cases more effectively to help prevent animal cruelty and abuse and allow for credit or debit payments in the field via mobile devices. So if your pet is picked up by Animal Control, you can find out quickly through the website and pay its “bail” (if needed) directly to the officer who uses his city-issued tablet to read your credit card information.

“The feedback that I have received from Bryant citizens in regards to the new city website is that it is easy to navigate and full of useful information that connects them better with city government,” said Greg Thompson, the marketing and events coordinator for Bryant.

Public feedback has been mostly positive as the city government becomes more accessible to the community. All improvements were made without increasing the IT budget, funded through sales tax revenue. Additional costs were covered by the savings the realignment of IT functions was made to create.

Sarah’s not on the other end of the line anymore, but in Bryant, the entire city government is at your fingertips.

 

 

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