Durango City Hall has implemented several technology upgrades intended to improve city services for staff and customers, including a fast digital open records request system, a self-help kiosk for quick city business, electronic bulletin boards and an online business licensing software.
The city’s new open records request system launched the first week of November, and it has reduced staff processing time of requests, said City Clerk Faye Harmer.
The city receives about 300 records requests per year. Even simple requests can take about an hour to address; staff must manually save individual emails, manually contact various city departments to collect information and set calendar reminders to make sure statutory deadlines are met, Harmer said.
The new software streamlines the process and reduces the time it takes to address a regular records request, she said. It automatically sends open records request inquiries to the clerk’s office where the correct staff member with the relevant information can be selected from a drop-down menu.
Staff can upload the information straight to an online portal, which again updates the clerk’s office automatically, she said. Staff will review the files and determine if the city attorney needs to be consulted. If no further review is required, the files can be released immediately; they become available to the inquirer right there on the open records request portal.
Harmer said the software also archives every request and response in order, making it easier for staff to track legally required deadlines for responses and stay on top of them.
The whole process can take as little as 15 minutes where it used to take an hour, Harmer said.
“So when you start multiplying that over 300 requests we’re saving a lot of other time,” she said.
One of Durango City Hall’s latest tech upgrades is its self help kiosk that was installed Nov. 14, Harmer said. With the kiosk, a simple touch screen nestled between two cashier counters in the City Hall lobby, residents can file records requests and search city documents, apply for jobs with the city and make payments.
“The concept of this, to borrow a phrase from the library, is to serve the underserved,” Harmer said. “Those that either don’t have computer access or don’t have internet access can certainly use this portal.”
She said self-help and self-serve devices have almost become expected from the general public; self checkouts at grocery stores, ATM’s on practically every street corner and even drive-thru DMV services have become the norm for many.
The self-help kiosk makes it easy to dodge a busy line at the cashier’s window; instead, the public can easily make payments at the kiosk.
Harmer said the city is taking feedback from the public about other city services or information people would like to see available at the kiosk. If the kiosk gets enough use, the city will consider purchasing an additional device.
In addition to the kiosk, the city recently installed electronic bulletin boards in the lobby of Durango City Hall. The bulletin boards have allowed the city to save paper and pushpins and clean up the lobby area, Harmer said.
She said the e-boards feature council agendas, meeting schedules, job listings; they display information about Durango-La Plata County Airport’s terminal expansion project, current city rebate programs, bid opportunities and municipal court dockets.
“The program was actually successful enough here they instituted it on some of the transit buses as well. It’s kind of spreading its little tentacles out there,” Harmer said.
The city’s Muni Revs business license renewal software launched in April, and the city is coming up on its first renewal cycle, during which Harmer expects the city will renew about 5,800 licenses.
A “good percentage” of business licenses were renewed online in the last few years under the old system, but many were mailed back the old fashioned way with a check that had to be processed by city finance staff, she said.
With the Muni Revs system, automatic license renewal reminders are sent out to businesses and then repeated on a weekly basis for every business that hasn’t renewed. Before Muni Revs, the city would send emails and printed letters to about a thousand businesses that were late to renew their licenses, she said.
With the automatic reminders in place, Harmer said she expects the number of late renewals will be reduced by “quite a bit.”