Disjointed City Systems Could Soon Be a Thing of the Past for Lima, Ohio

Officials are discussing how to go about aligning the largely disconnected web of city software for better service delivery and transparency.

by Josh Ellerbrock, The Lima News / May 1, 2018
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(TNS) — LIMA, Ohio — After moving the water billing system online, the city of Lima is considering how to go about similar IT projects that could provide more efficiency, transparency and higher levels of service to the public.

At a meeting Monday night, Program Director Barry Melvin of Utility Metering Services (UMS), the consultant company behind the two-year-long water billing project, presented information on technology systems to a small crowd of city officials and laid out what the they can do to align Lima with digital age expectations.

His hour-long speech expanded on data management, IT infrastructure and technology platforms. Putting the buzzwords aside, however, potential changes made to the city’s software could save money and give the public access to data that could hasten improvements at street level — like fixing potholes or pushing business investment.

“This initiative is not just about saving costs or making it easier to manage. It’s about providing better service to the community,” Finance Director Steve Cleaves said.

For example, other cities farther along in the process have made it easier for residents to check up on code enforcement violations, search landlords for number of citations received or lay out zoning requirements so developers can have what they need before ever coming into the office.

“It’s really is about how to respond as efficiently and quickly as possible,” Mayor David Berger said.

When Berger began his administration, he said, he was the only one who used a computer, but today, there are hundreds of different devices used by every department. At the onset of the IT audit begun two years ago, UMS identified 55 separate systems used by the city. None of the disparate systems, except the one used by the auditor’s office, could talk to another. The eventual goal is to make structural changes in these systems that can eliminate overlap and save time, just like the water department was able to do with its billing project.

Within the next 12 to 18 months, Berger said, the city is looking to rollout a community service portal to be used by residents as a way to report problem streets or code enforcement violations.

The city is also be working through the structural IT needs of police body cameras, but the details of what’s necessary for both storage and public requests has yet to be considered in their entirety.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

©2018 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.