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Cape among the best in cost-cutting measures

By Staff | Dec 1, 2012

Cape Coral is among the best in the nation when it comes to digital government, which the city manager hopes will help the city save more money in the long run.

The city placed second in a survey by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government and Digital Communities Program among cities with a population of 125,000 to 250,000.

IT Director John McLean will give a presentation on the award during the city council’s workshop meeting Monday at city hall and present City Manager John Szerlag with the award, which was handed out Friday at the annual League of Cities meeting in Boston.

Assistant IT Director Fidel DeForte will receive the award.

“Kudos to the city and staff for finding ways to take advantage of technology and deliver services in a better way,” McLean said. “This fits into the city manager’s scheme.”

City officials hope to use the award as an example of how the city can create efficiencies and save money and best practices, which Szerlag said are intertwined.

According to a press release by the firm, the top-ranked cities reduced overtime with new technology, embraced BYOD (bring your own device) concepts to reduce hardware costs and developed an app to keep track of how users can reduce power and fuel consumption.

Those cities also showed that consolidating and enabling shared services resulted in large cost savings and new citizen-engagement tools boosted citizen feedback and improved services.

“It shows what cities use technology in tough times to save money while delivering value,” McLean said.

Councilmember Kevin McGrail said the city has done a great job marrying work with state-of-the-art technology.

“Cape Coral has embraced BYOD to reduce costs and has an excellent track record on lowering costs,” McGrail said. “We actively facilitate a program to reduce electric and overhead costs. Most techno-savvy employees are on the cutting edge.”

Janet Grenslitt, survey and awards director for the Center of Digital Government, said it was the way the city reconfigured its public wireless network to promote BYOD that helped win them the award.

“They took the wireless network that was being used already and reconfigured it to cover city facilities and accommodate BYOD,” Grenslitt said. “It can use iPads, tablets and Smartphones and access e-mails on the city system.”

McLean said other city practices cited in the survey included virtualization, IT best practices and tracking of energy savings.

McGrail said as great as the award is, there are some unintended consequences for using the BYOD plan, and privacy is one of them.

“Once you utilize a personal device for city purposes, it could become public record. Because we have to save so much, I don’t want to store it on a personal device,” McGrail said. “I prefer to keep it on the city system.”

McGrail, who said he has more than 8,000 e-mails from citizens and for work-related things, said his computer is about 10 years old, making him one of the few to eschew BYOD.

BYOD is a business policy of employees bringing their own mobile devices to their place of work and using them to access company resources.

Cape Coral finished behind only Salt Lake City for cities between 125,000 and 250,000 people.

Winston-Salem, N.C., Chula Vista, Calif. and Olathe, Kan. rounded out the top five.

It is the third time Cape Coral has been recognized by this survey, which began in 2001. The city finished eighth in 2008 and sixth in 2009, McLean said.

Florida cities did well in the survey, with Jacksonville 10th in the survey of cities over 250,000 people.

West Palm Beach was fourth among cities of 75,000 to 125,000, and North Port finished third for cities between 30,000 and 75,000.

The Center of Digital Government is a national research and advisory institute on information technology practices and best practices in state and local government, according to the press release.