The city of Bryant is putting into place new technology that will allow the government to "Go Green."
During the past two years, each department has been charged with finding ways to make its operations more efficient and cost-effective. One item in particular that crossed all departments was printing costs and the subsequent expense of storage of paper documents.
City Clerk Heather Kizer saw firsthand the commitment to space that storage of city ordinances, meeting minutes, city contracts, agreements and resolutions required.
"When I moved into my office, there were boxes all over the place." said Kizer. Storage of the files requires filing cabinets that are fire-proof. "I was overwhelmed by the amount of printed paper. We started looking for ways to be more efficient. The Mayor and I had already decided that some of our common goals were to improve the quality of life in Bryant, make local government more transparent, and to start a Healthy Bryant initiative which included everything from walking trails to a good recycling program. After conducting walk audits, attending software training seminars, and attending as many training sessions as possible in all of these areas, I began to think of the things I could do specifically to positively change the daily operations of the City Clerks office. I realized that efficiency, transparency, and the quality of life for all citizens in Bryant went hand-in-hand with going green and eliminating waste and redundancy."
Kizer was concerned with approaching the council with a request to purchase more filing cabinets for storage, each one fireproof and with an estimated cost of $2,500. At the time, her office included four cabinets with a total of 11 drawers to store every required document of the city. "As the designated record-keeper for the city, I have documents that date back to the 1940s. The implementation of Laserfiche software has enabled these delicate original documents to be scanned into a securely backed up virtual archive center. This software not only keeps a backup of these historic documents in the case of disaster, but in the near future will also allow anyone who chooses to have the ability to access the archives through the city website. Laserfiche will be an archive center for almost all the other paper documents submitted to the Clerk’s office, which will eliminate paper and the need for excessive storage space."
The emphasis on technology to streamline processes and cut costs is not limited to paper documents. Kizer points to a new software system called "Agenda Center" that is part of the Civic Plus software on the city's website. "The use of Google Docs and Agenda Center has already completely eliminated the need for printed paper to build the council meeting agendas and has made the internal process and workflow for building the agendas much more efficient than ever before." says Kizer. Once the agenda works through each department and is approved by the mayor, those residents who have signed up on the city's website will receive an electronic notification when the agenda is posted. Agenda Center is scheduled for use with all committee meetings in the future.
Mayor Jill Dabbs had already taken measures to ease her reliance on paper.
"Upon taking office in 2011, I employed the assistance of an iPad and an iPhone in order to keep up with notes, agendas, contacts, calendars, etc. These two devices replace my business card holder, my steno pad, my documents folder, my briefcase filled with paper agendas, my old paper-bound Day-timer and many other antiquated business tools that simply were no longer efficient."
The city has been using "Google Docs for Government" to distribute documentation across departments, collaborate on city policies and documents, and to place council meeting agendas and packets online.
"Google Docs for Government is a very powerful tool the city now utilizes on a daily basis." says Dabbs.
Training, coordinated by Kizer, has been ongoing with department heads. "Our training teaches how to use Google Docs, make notes and add questions, just like a person would when writing on the document."
The city is also taking measures to incorporate the city's municipal code onto the city website. "We are working with MuniCode Corporation." says Kizer. "MuniCode will build out the Bryant City Code for the website, organizing it into simple alphabetized categories, making it very easy for anyone to find the specific items they are looking for."
Kizer noted that the standard practice of printing council packets, oftentimes in excess of 280 pages, was discontinued when the packets were put online in advance of the meetings for council members, department heads and the general public. "By doing so, monies previously budgeted for printing reports are being utilized in community outreach efforts such as newsletters, expansion of the fire safety program for children and distribution of information at town hall meetings. Approximately $13,500 was moved as a result from department budgets to community service initiatives." Kizer said.
She noted that each department in the city has seen savings in space and time related to the technology being put into place.
In addition, efforts to bring curbside recycling to Bryant are near completion.
"With the help of Saline County Solid Waste Management District, we have increased the number of recycling centers across the city. We have recycling bins available to the public at city hall, Bethel Middle School and Bishop Park," Dabbs said.
"We have also toured recycling facilities throughout the state. It is a goal of this administration to increase accessibility to recycling. We are closer to reaching this goal than we were a year ago."
In 2012, Dan Burden, executive director and co-founder of "Walkable and Livable Communities Institute" stated that it was his opinion that "Bryant could be a model city for the rest of the state to follow, even the nation."
The city soon will be posting additional information related to "Go Green" on the Bryant website.