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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
City of Rockmart, Georgia: Improving Communication through Infrastructure and Integration

The City of Rockmart was recently presented with the 2005 Best Application of a Government Organization: Growing Georgia award.  The city received the award for its Technology Enhancement and Consolidation project.  The idea for the “Best of” awards came about in 2003 when the Governor established the Commission for a New Georgia.  The commission’s purpose is to bring breakthrough thinking to and a fresh perspective on ways state government can better manage assets, services and map its strategic future.  The award was presented at the Southeast Government Technology Conference in Atlanta, a technology education event and expo whose focus is policy, management and technology issues facing government today.  As part of the conference finale, awards were presented to help honor government organizations for their efforts and innovations to use technology as a means to improve service to citizens.

The idea for the technology project came about in part because Pam Herring, City Clerk and other key employees recognized the need for improvements to the existing network infrastructure, telephone and software systems.  Even though the city is small, approximately 3,800 in population, the city offices are housed in multiple locations.  This created a piece-mill environment that was not only an inconvenience to the citizens but also to the employees in regard to efficiency and responsiveness.  Some specific challenges the city faced were:

  • Purchase orders were hand written without any knowledge of budget balances, etc., and were hand delivered to the administration building.  This added time and nconvenience to the purchasing process.
  • Only those at the administration building had access to departmental budgets and spending.  Others received this information through reports generated at month-end.
  • All accounts payable and payroll checks were hand signed which took a considerable amount of time.
  • Without a way to reprint checks, water bills and other items generated by the current computer system, errors made or items lost had to be completely reprocessed. 
  • When important documents were needed, they were retrieved from paper files which was time consuming and inefficient.
  • Information provided to council for review was typically copied and hand delivered.  Another process that could be streamlined.
  • There was no central time clock for the employees.  Each location used a different means of accounting for time worked; many relied on manually recorded information.  This fragmented approach often made payroll a time consuming and inaccurate process.
  • Multiple computer networks throughout the departments were inconsistently being monitored and backed up, sometimes not at all.
  • There were several separate phone systems throughout the city – one that handled calls for the administration, police and water department; a separate system at the fire department; and a single line phone at the waste treatment facility.  Some lines were answered by an automated attendant while others were not. These unconnected systems could be frustrating to citizens who, when they finally reached a person, were often told that they must hang up and call another number to reach the party they were seeking.  If after that, they didn’t’ reach their party, they may not even have had an opportunity to leave a message or be transferred to another.  This was very upsetting to the person calling and also to the individual waiting for the call.
  • There was no way to determine the source of long distant calls.
  • There were several separate phone systems throughout the city – one that handled calls for the administration, police and water department; a separate system at the fire department; and a single line phone at the waste treatment facility.  Some lines were answered by an automated attendant while others were not. These unconnected systems could be frustrating to citizens who, when they finally reached a person, were often told that they must hang up and call another number to reach the party they were seeking.  If after that, they didn’t’ reach their party, they may not even have had an opportunity to leave a message or be transferred to another.  This was very upsetting to the person calling and also to the individual waiting for the call.
  • There was no way to determine the source of long distant calls.
  • Because these departments were housed at five different locations, each one had a separate DSL line for computer connectivity to the Internet.  This required maintaining five separate modems, routers and firewalls (or no good firewall). Additionally, because these were standard DSL lines, users experienced slow traffic and drops in connectivity.
  • No security was in place at any of the locations.

The city realized it could improve communication by implementing a consolidated and uniform technology infrastructure.  As a result of the implementation they saw many improvements, such as an increase in the level of customer service they were able to provide citizens; more reliable, efficient and secure data; and better accountability for employees. 

As the result of the bidding and procurement process, the city selected Computer Software Innovations, Inc. (CSI) as the vendor of choice for this multiphasic project.  The project included the purchase of CSI Accounting+ software, an Integrated Financial Management System; CSI municipal software for utility billing, occupational tax, property tax, and construction permits; integrated Scanning and Imaging Solution; a biometric time and attendance system; upgrades to network infrastructure including a Cisco IP Telephony phone system and wireless WAN; and DIVR video surveillance system.  CSI’s knowledgeable staff and expertise in the public sector market, along with the city’s attitude and foresight, made the project a great success.  The City of Rockmart is making plans for the second phase of this project.  They hope to expand wireless communications to provide secure network access to fire personnel and police officers so the can retrieve and enter data from the field via laptop computers.  They also plan to expand the security/video surveillance system to more public buildings, possibly including the school district.

If you are interested in finding out more about any or all of these technology solutions, we would welcome the opportunity to talk with you. 
Contact CSI at sales@csi-plus.com or call 1-800-953-6847.

 

  

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