By DAVE KITCHELL

Pharos-Tribune staff writer

Deputy Mayor Linda Klinck says she is moving forward with plans to upgrade computer access to local government.

“I just met with Roeing Corporation staff members and told them to come up with some scaled down numbers in order to complete a communications system with the city of Logansport,” she said Friday.

“The mayor has been talking with (former county manager) Charlie Mays and has asked me to meet with him regarding getting our phone systems meshed together.”

There are more discussions planned for a possible wireless network that would benefit both the city and county, Klinck says, and she says Clerk-Treasurer Ellen Bland is working on ways to improve city government efficiency online.

“We need to get our Web site updated, too,” Klinck says. “We want it to be similar to the Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation’s Web site. ‘Ellie’ has taken over the lead of the (information technology) department.”

While city and county officials are exploring ways to work together to make more government services available online, outgoing Cass County Council President Steve Sims says there is room for improvement.

“Definitely, our Cass County Web site needs a lot of work. I’ve been somewhat disappointed that we haven’t gotten hardly any functionality out of that thing.”

Sims says it is not because the county staff are not busy doing their jobs.

“The two IT guys they have, they just seem to be spread pretty thin. The IT team meets every couple of weeks, but we can’t get it to the front burner.”

Paying property taxes online is just one way to use a Web presence to make government access easier for taxpayers, Sims says.

“I think that’s going to be the future. We’re all going to do more business online all the time.”

And Sims says the Web presence should cut staffing costs.

“That’s what they always say when you buy these programs. I have yet to see it.”

City/county Planning Director Stan Williams says the Web can make it easier for people from outside the community to find out about local zoning regulations. Electronic applications for zoning petitions will make the planning staff workload easier to manage, he said.

“We’re working on updating our planning department Web site. We made our presentation to the planning commission a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

“If we had wireless, we certainly could put our documents on the Internet for the city planning department.”

Having board and commission minutes available online also will help, along with staff reports of upcoming petitions, Williams said.

Cass IT Director Ed Beheler says there is much to do to bring the county up to speed in its computer issues, and with a wireless Internet system for the city and county.

“Steve Sims and I spoke with the city when they were first considering it. At that time, we decided that their goals for what they wanted to accomplish didn’t really mesh well with what we were trying to accomplish. At the time, we were also trying to accomplish a wireless project. At this point, we’d be interested in becoming a customer of theirs if they decide in going in that direction. I don’t really think that for right now, the benefit it would give the county really justifies the investment up front.”

But Beheler says the Web is on the agenda for county government.

“I think one of the next steps we’ve been looking at is having the GIS information online. For some time, we’ve been able to pay our property tax bills online. If you go to the county’s Web page and click on treasurer’s office, there’s a link there. Other things like court records, property information and all that, it will come with time. I’m not real sure on the timeframe of that.”

Beheler says the county does not track the number of Web hits it is receiving, but he sees potential to cut tasks for county employees who have to write down information and go from office to office because there is an inadequate Web presence internally.

“There are certain things where people type in information and then go across to another building. The more that we can integrate the offices together, the more time savings, the more efficiency we can run with.

“Our Web site is a pretty basic Web site. It’s not too advanced or too fancy right now. That’s something that will change over time as we get some higher priorities wishes and dreams up.”

County Engineer Jodi Coblentz says the county has opted not to use the GIS system it has been using on a trial basis, but will sell the service to companies interested in buying it. She wants to add school bus routes to the Web, along with other information.

“Our (property) parcel information is up to date. That’s what seems to be the most common (information) that people are after. We also have addressing.

“We have some road plans — what roads that will be done over the next few years and what roads have been done.”

Watersheds and county drainage ditches also will be on the Web soon, she says.

“We have all bridges and culverts,” she says.

Gravel road information also is on the Web, but weight limits, other than those posted on bridges, is not available.

Dave Kitchell may be contacted at 722-5000, Ext. 5150, or via e-mail at david.kitchell@pharostribune.com.

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