Balto. Co. working to move more operations online

Kamenetz announces more than 20 technology measures aimed at cutting costs

February 22, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County will move many of its operations online, a change intended to make it easier for residents to navigate the maze of county agencies.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced plans Tuesday to improve technological offerings across agencies over the next 6 to 18 months by implementing 23 initiatives, such as establishing an online "one-stop shop" for questions and requests from residents, simplifying the online application for the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process, and giving police officers a computerized ticket system.

It won't take long for the county to recoup its initial $5 million costs, Kamenetz said, estimating that some savings would materialize in a few months while others will take less than five years. The county should eventually realize millions of dollars in annual savings, he said.

Some initiatives are already underway, including the Police Department's online crime tips system and an online request system for the CountyRide program, which gives rides to seniors and disabled residents.

With the county facing a lean budget year, Kamenetz said he's counting on technology to save money and time.

"It's important that we leverage the potential of technology by increasing the effectiveness of government," he said, "but without increasing our payroll."

Other upgrades will improve automated phone systems and driving routes for inspectors, and give residents' status updates on their service requests.

Officials said they can save money in various ways — faster driving routes would lead to fuel savings, online training reduces the need for overtime pay, and better computerized systems could handle increases in service requests.

Last fall, Kamenetz asked Rob Stradling, the director of information technology, to recommend quick technological upgrades that could be implemented by February.

"My goal was to unleash our office of information technology and set them loose to improve the efficiency of the delivery of county services," said Kamenetz, who discussed the county's lagging technology while on the campaign trail.

Stradling said, "This is a big step forward in terms of transparency, customer service, accountability and efficiency. This is automating something that is manual now with almost every agency."

Baltimore County isn't alone in its efforts to use technology to improve offerings in lieu of adding more staff or new programs, said Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties.

"When we're so strapped for cash, when every county has either a hiring freeze or some other constraint on personnel, you look for economies of scale anywhere you can," Sanderson said.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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