Aurora, Ill., Writes Tech Plan With Praise from Kansas City

During the presentation of the city of Aurora, Ill.'s new technology plan, the mayor read a letter from Kansas City Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett praising the plan for looking forward.

(TNS) — The city of Aurora, Ill., presented its technology plan this week, a blueprint for the future almost a year in the making.

“Technology is the common denominator for growth in the city of Aurora,” said Michael Pegues, Aurora’s CIO, in presenting the plan before a large City Council crowd. “It’s time for the city of Aurora to get fired up, excited about our potential and the need to do this now, because as we all know, technology doesn’t wait for anyone.”

The City Council approved a $90,000 contract in April 2018 for Crowe LLP to put together the plan. Participating in its development were Gartner, OnLight Aurora, Bureau Gravity and NTI Fiber Optics, as well as a host of city employees.

Pegues said with what Aurora has already done, items the plan suggests makes Aurora “positioned” to lead in the technology wave sweeping across government.

“Let’s make sure we don’t miss it,” he said.

Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th Ward, noted that the “key” is to “make sure it doesn’t stay in a drawer somewhere.”

“We need to take the initiative that other cities haven’t,” he said.

“I can guarantee you …” Pegues said in answer, “… we won’t let it collect dust.”

The city got an endorsement for its plan from another city known as one of the country’s leaders in municipal smart technology, Kansas City, Mo. Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, after looking at the city’s plan, sent a letter to Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, which the mayor read during the presentation.

Irvin and Pegues have visited Kansas City and have said they are patterning Aurora’s smart city moves after the town.

“I think you’ve discovered a method to create the smartest city in the country,” Bennett said in his letter to Irvin.

One of the first steps toward implementation will be formation of a Smart City Advisory Committee. Pegues said the size and shape of the committee would be developed soon, with appointments to it coming shortly afterward.

Another early step is an initiative the Information Technology Department would do with the city’s Economic Development Department called the “1,000 Jobs Initiative Matrix.” It ties together the recent downtown housing study done for the Economic Development Department with the technology plan, said David Dibo, Aurora’s Economic Development director.

The study suggested the city can absorb as many as 1,260 new housing units downtown during the next five years, many of them technology-based. Dibo said the study indicated the housing would attract groups known as knowledge workers, new power couples, cosmopolitan elites, fast-track professionals and small-city singles.

They would be looking for jobs in high tech-related fields, Dibo said.

“We have the ability to support these businesses in the city,” he said. “We in Economic Development are trying to martial these resources.”

The city has already made some moves toward its Smart City objectives. The city has deployed and launched the police and fire computer-aided dispatch system, as well as Next Request, a web-based platform to manage, track and streamline all Freedom of Information Act requests.

The city recently announced it has migrated the on-premise Public Administration Financial System to CentralSquare, which is cloud-based.

Some of the key items the plan mentions include:

  • A five-year plan to improve ways the city uses data analytics to make decisions.
  • A three- to five-year plan to implement things like an online business registration portal.
  • Online bill payment.
  • A public facing Freedom of Information Act and public record request portal.
  • Human Resources and Division of Finance system upgrades, including purchasing, time and attendance payroll and an online benefits enrollment portal.
  • Better asset management to better track assets and vendors.
  • Fiber optimization, in collaboration with OnLight Aurora, to provide access to a metro Ethernet network and the Internet. Also use the fiber’s revenue-generating potential with connectivity benefits to local business, residents and visitors.
Mervine called it “interesting” that one of the concepts in the plan is taking advantage of the fiber the city has available.

“We do have technological advantages over other cities,” he said.

Ald. Michael Saville, 6th Ward, said the city should do “anything we can do to position Aurora as a leader” in technology.

“This is the future after all,” he said.

Editor's note: A correction was made to the name of city consultant, Crowe LLP.

©2019 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.