Web site transition

A small southeastern California city, trying to capitalize on the high Internet connection rate of its residents, plans to offer a suite of e-government initiatives beginning next year.

"I wanted people to able to get online and do business with the city so they didn't have to come into City Hall Monday through Friday, 8 to 5," said Don White, assistant city manager for Laguna Hills. White said surveys revealed that the city of 33,000 has a 79 percent household Internet connectivity rate.

Come January, residents and businesses will be able to go online to file complaints or request services, such as pothole repairs, make reservations for parks, register for recreation classes, and obtain building or public works permits. White said the city site (www.ci.laguna-hills.ca.us) would also offer online payment capabilities. Currently the site only posts information.

With the new software and back-end management system, White said the city could keep track of work orders and automatically generate up-to-date reports. Eventually, he'd like to see citizens file some minor police reports via the Internet as well.

For the last two years, the city's been looking for a turnkey solution to be hosted off site because Laguna Hills didn't have the money to hire and retain information technology staff. Earlier this year, the city started talking with GovPartner, an e-government provider and affiliate of San Diego-based Berryman & Henigar, Inc., a municipal professional services firm.

White said GovPartner's software and hosted service was attractive but there were other reasons for the choice. Since 1992, the city has contracted with Berryman & Henigar for engineering services, White said, adding that the city felt confident about the firm's commitment to GovPartner. The software architecture, he said, was developed by the city of Sunnyvale, which understood real city applications and processes. Microsoft Corp. evaluated and refined the software.

The city is the first to use all of GovPartner's software applications for building and public works permits, service request and work-order tracking, online reservation management and payment, and internal management system for code enforcement, planning and zoning, and building safety.

The city is paying a GovPartner one-time $50,000 upfront fee plus $66,000 a year for hosting, maintenance and support, White said. "If we were to do this in house, there isn't a comparison in that regard. I think financially it was a good deal," he said.

The city is developing a grass-roots marketing campaign including presentations at civic, school, and business groups, articles in city newsletters and one-on-one talks with residents. The city is also building a new community complex, which will have 20 high-speed Internet-accessible computers available to the public and there will be some public terminals in City Hall.

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