Manager Avoids Tax Hike In Miami City Budget Proposal
By Candi Calkins
The consulting firm Arthur Andersen, which developed an information technology strategic plan for the City of Orlando, was chosen to do the same for the City of Miami.
City officials said negotiations for the $500,000 contract will be wrapped up within two months.
The survey of the city’s computer needs will take six months, said Aldo Stancato, director of the city’s information technology department.
Arthur Andersen’s proposal was chosen from six submitted this year. Mr. Stancato said the city requested proposals from more than 150 consulting firms.
The contract, which could cost the city up to $608,000, includes a monitoring program and would bring technology consultants in for a sweeping assessment of the city’s Internet and networking needs.
"The next real push is e-government," said Bertha Henry, assistant city manager for finance and administration, who chaired the city’s information technology steering committee.
"If we’re going to compete in this arena as a local government we have to provide that service to our residents and our businesses," Ms. Henry said.
City officials foresee residents logging on to the Internet to pay bills or get information on city programs, foregoing the trek to city offices.
With the right technology in place, architects and builders could submit building schematics and architectural drawings over the Internet, reducing waiting lines at the city’s building department, officials said.
Frank Rollason, assistant city manager for operations, said the plan will include a three- to five-year mid-range plan and a long-term plan looking at needs for seven to 10 years.
"Technology changes so rapidly, but we’ve got to start to get some kind of focus for interfacing with the users," Mr. Rollason said.
He said he envisions touch-screen, user-friendly computers at city regional Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices that could be used by low-income residents to apply for building permits or access city information.
"We just need to come into the potential of what the computer gives us," Mr. Rollason said, "then, within the range of expenditures that the city has to devote to this type of program, come up with a plan to start benchmarking and doing these things."
"It’s a very positive thing for the city because we’ve never really had a comprehensive information technology plan to look at everybody’s needs as a whole," Mr. Stancato said. "Instead of having a bunch of little projects we can end up with several large projects that can meet everybody’s needs."
The city already spent $10 million last year upgrading antiquated computer equipment and technology infrastructure, taking steps to move from a mainframe system to individual work stations. City buildings have been tied into a citywide communications system.
Mr. Stancato said the city will spend $2 million more this year on technology upgrades. He said the police department is also planning a $6 million upgrade of its dispatch system, which was developed in the early 1980s.
The strategic information technology plan commissioned from Arthur Andersen goes beyond equipment, taking a broader look at available software systems.
Mr. Stancato said consultants will study document management and ways that electronic work flow may reduce paperwork.
The survey requires an assessment of all the city’s business practices and how technology could be best used to deliver services, Ms. Henry said.
"Clearly in some of our business practices," she said, "we are way behind the times."
With limited funding available for information technology needs, Ms. Henry said, "we really need a plan to help build those recommendations and make those decisions."