Texas city keeps e-work in-house

After scrapping a deal with a software vendor last summer, Richardson, Texas — located in the heart of "Telecom Corridor" just north of Dallas — unveiled a new Web site this month with several new e-government services developed in-house.

Now, the city's 91,000 residents can view and pay utility bills and municipal court tickets online (www.cor.net). And this summer, residents should be able to go online to apply for certain building permits, lodge complaints and purchase dog licenses.

With about 500 technology companies in the area, the city is growing tremendously, and businesses and residents want to conduct more business online, the city's chief information officer, Steven Graves, said. A survey last year showed that 70 percent to 80 percent of the residents had computers at home and online access, he said.

So far, he said the site is averaging 13 utility bill payments a day, which can be done via credit card. Residents, who log on using their account number and a password, are not charged convenience fees.

When paying tickets, residents can view their citations and choose which ones to pay. To log on, residents must enter a ticket number and date, and then the system will ask for further personal information, such as a birth date, Graves said.

He said the secure system records transactions instantly, so a resident can view payments on the system made minutes earlier and avoid making duplicate payments.

Last year, the city hired a software vendor to create an online system, but the vendor kept delaying the project. Out of frustration, the city decided to take on the project itself, he said. The city employs several programmers, but paid about $50,000 in additional expenses, mostly to a contractor to build the front end of the system.

He said city workers have seen a reduction in the number of calls for information.

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