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Norwalk, Conn., Undertaking New Modernization Efforts

The city has taken steps toward modernization and sustainability by approving a new software initiative. In addition, it has also moved to add four Teslas to the city vehicle fleet.

Lines of code overlayed over a data center.
(TNS) — The city has taken steps toward modernization and sustainability with a new software initiative and by adding Teslas to the city fleet.

"This is really just phase one of a bigger modernization project," explained Jessica Vonashek, Norwalk's chief of community and economic development during a recent Common Council meeting.

In order to streamline the process for permits and licenses, Norwalk is undertaking a project to modernize systems, with the goal of updating the city website and making city services more accessible for residents.

"We have a really cumbersome process when it comes to permits and licenses," Vonashek said. "We actually ask residents to come in person during office hours and submit an application to Planning and Zoning and move that application over to Building and Code Enforcement."

The antiquated system cost the city time and money because of how ineffective it is, Vonashek said.

"We have more than 200,000 pieces of paper in City Hall that we need to digitize in order to be able to make this system work effectively," Vonashek said.

Employees often have to run to the basement to find the correct file they are looking for. So phase one of the modernization is identify gaps in the licensing and permit software that exist today.

The city approved a contract with Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker, LLC for $150,000 using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. In all, the modernization project is anticipated to cost between $1.5 to $2 million.

"I'm 100 percent behind this," said Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, a Common Council member. "For years, we have heard complaints from residents about this onerous process, and so it's really important."

The city also approved the purchase of 4 Tesla Model Ys to replace some of the Public Works Department's Ford Explorers used by city employees doing inspections and other work in the neighborhoods.

"I think this is exactly the kind of EV vehicle that we should be using, when these are vehicles that are going to mostly be doing movement around neighborhoods," Niedzielski-Eichner said. "It's great that we're not polluting while we're doing it."

The city aims to switch its fleet to hybrid and electric vehicles in order to be more sustainable and save costs like gas.

"The charging stations are in the final stages of being installed at the public works garages and also here at City Hall," said Jim Frayer, Common Council member.

The Public Works Department evaluated several electric vehicle options including Ford, Toyotas and Chevys but Tesla landed on top as the best option.

"Tesla came out not only with a very good price but also being able to deliver the cars within a few weeks," said Vanessa Valadares, Norwalk chief of operations and public works. "We should be expecting these cars here this summer."

Tesla also offers $7,500 tax rebate on the cars and in total the city allocated $200,520 for the new electric SUVs. Valadares the vehicles are expected as early as July.

"I'm really just very excited to see us sort of moving into the future here," Niedzielski-Eichner said.

© 2024 The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.