MANSFIELD — Improving technology was the primary topic for Richland County commissioners on Thursday.
Commissioners approved a contract with Schneider Geospatial that will allow residents and businesses to soon use an online portal to complete and file permits for various county departments.
They also approved a contract with Inspiron Logistics to provide emergency and even more routine messages to Richland County residents via text messages, emails and even voice messaging phone calls.
The decisions came during a meeting with county Auditor Pat Dropsey and officials in his IT department.
Commissioner Tony Vero said the decisions continue an effort to upgrade the county's technology infrastructure, including a newly renovated 9-1-1 communications center.
"We hope Richland County residents are satisfied with the continued capital investments that provide easier access to necessary public services while also making this a safer place to live," Vero said.
The web-based permit application process will streamline and quicken the permit process, according to Dropsey, and will also allow users to follow the progress of their applications.
Funding for the new service will come from the auditor's real estate proceeds and will not cost individual departments additional money to utilize the online service.
Dropsey said the initial set-up will cost $30,000 and web-hosting will then $14,100 annually. The first year will be pro-rated at $5,875 since it will not begin until August, he said.
According to the company's website, the "web-based technology eliminates many challenges faced by local government organizations in managing permit applications, vendor registration, and code enforcement. It helps to track all types of permits throughout their life cycle by streamlining workflows, reducing or eliminating the need for office visits, increasing and automating communication and information access to all involved parties, and allowing for online payments."
Commissioners agreed to use $35,000 in contingency funds for the messaging notification agreement, including $10,000 for a pro-rated 2021 and $12,500 annually for each of the next two years.
The system will allow residents to sign up for instant messages, emails and voice messages from various county agencies, including the sheriff's department and other public safety entities.
The outbound messaging system could be used for any number of messages, including snow and weather advisories, as well as alerts on missing persons and "most wanted" individuals.
Once the system is in place, which officials hope will be complete in the next several weeks, residents can visit the county website and select from a menu of notifications they wish to receive, as well as the format in which they would like to receive them.