Harlem, Ga., Approves Deal to Digitize City Codes, Redesign Website

City officials approved a $20,000 deal with Municode to rework online services and public-facing portal.

by Joe Hotchkiss, The Augusta Chronicle / March 28, 2018
Courtesy City of Harlem, Ga.

(TNS) — One of Columbia County, Ga.'s cities is stepping up its tech.

The Harlem City Council voted Monday night to enter into an agreement with another legal-document publisher to electronically recodify the city's laws, and to redesign, host and support the city's website.

Harlem currently uses American Legal Publishing to organize and update its ordinances.

"American Legal does not have a lot of clients within Georgia, and over time that's obviously affected the product," City Manager Brett Cook said.

Actually, the city is the company's only client in Georgia, according to Harlem City Attorney Adam Nelson. He said American Legal's only other Georgia client, Dade County in the state's northwest corner, has stopped using it in favor of Municipal Code Corp., based in Tallahassee, Fla.

Cook said that after talking with Nelson and fellow City Attorney Barry Fleming, "I think everybody is on the same page" that Harlem should start working with Municode.

"You probably should recodify your codes every 10 to 15 years, because what happens over time is you're constantly amending codes and you just miss things," Cook said. "Our codes now are very cobbled together, and we've got a lot of things that probably conflict with other areas and not cross-referenced appropriately."

Municode has done this so much, he said, "they've got it down to a science."

One of the services Municode would provide is to make Harlem's code accessible online. Municode also sets up websites for local governments, and city officials have been looking for ways to make Harlem's online presence more intuitive for visitors and more useful for residents.

"So for us, for $20,000 we can recodify and get a brand-new website, which I think is very much worth the money," Cook said.

Mayor Pro Tem John Thigpen said he recently visited the Municode-hosted website for Senoia, a city in Coweta County that's about the same size as Harlem, and found the site to be "very user-friendly – better than what we have now by far."

Cook said Municode might spend up to a year working with the city to recodify its laws – changing the numbering and styling of ordinances, and suggesting changes to rectify conflicts with other laws or to make the code more uniform.

But a new website, if work began immediately, could be up and running in just a couple months, he said.

Council members agreed that would be a bonus as more people worldwide start paying attention to Harlem – often visiting the city's website – ahead of its annual Oliver Hardy Festival. The film comedian was born in Harlem in 1892.

The council voted unanimously to work with Municode.

©2018 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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