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Council OKs contract talks with online smartphone provider

By Staff | Apr 7, 2015

Cape Coral will move ahead with its online and smartphone presence after City Council voted unanimously Monday night to begin talks with a familiar provider for a one-year trial contract.

City IT Director John MacLean presented three options available for proceeding into the smartphone app age that will allow residents the capability of paying utility bills, file for permits, get garage sale permits, view lists of local events, report issues and much more through their phones. Some of those capabilities already are available to residents on the Internet.

MacLean said the app would save the city money when residents sign up to pay bills on smartphones eliminating the need to print and mail paper statements.

MacLean recommended contracting with CRW CivicTRAK, a new cloud based CRW app brand with guaranteed integration to the city’s current CRW CRMTRAK system used by the Citizen Action Center and online permitting and bill pay functions.

“It gives the city one system as opposed to having two repositories for data,” MacLean said.

All three systems cost about the same at $1,500 a month to maintain, but CivicTRAK’s guaranteed integration, MacLean said, is the logical choice and a major advantage over the other two, whose integration carries an added cost. MacLean also said since CRW already has a contract with the city officials might agree to negotiate a discount for the 12-month trial.

Some cities surveyed by the IT department experienced low volumes of “tickets” via mobile devices and could not justify purchasing the service.

Seven members of council spoke in favor of advancing the smartphone app technology.

“My biggest question is security to our portal system,” said Councilmember Rick Williams. “CivicTrak makes the most sense.”

“There’s something about the cloud that makes me nervous,” said Councilmember Derrick Donnell. “The numbers are do-able for 12 months to try this out. It’s a no-brainer for me. I’m excited about it.”

“With the technical schools we have, could we get students to do this with a professor?” asked Mayor Marni Sawicki.

MacLean shot down that idea calling the result a “homemade system that may not be properly maintained and become outdated.” He recommended a reputable provider.

“I’m like a fish out of water when it comes to technology,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “One thing to make sure of is not to tie ourselves to one company just because it’s convenient to our system. As for the technology of it, I’m with you on that.”

Taxi ordinance

The city’s taxi ordinance came under scrutiny Monday night, questioned particularly by Sawicki, who said her insurance background led her to believe the ordinance and a resolution seeking a permit for one vehicle might be insufficient and open the city to liability.

Resident Charlene Canfield-Clancy is seeking a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for one vehicle intending to transport elderly residents to grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, malls or other destinations for a set fee.

Canfield-Clancy said she has met all of the criteria contained in the current ordinance and has insurance. She said she has worked with elderly people and sees a need for this kind of service for those who no longer drive cars, are not comfortable driving at night or not comfortable going somewhere alone. She hoped her service would be used repeatedly by the same residents.

Sawicki then called the service non-emergency medical transportation which requires even higher insurance to be carried.

City Attorney Delores Menendez said the city’s requirements for the certificate does have insurance requirements, but probably has not been reviewed and updated for a number of years.

Lacking any assurances of the city’s risk for liability and adequate insurance requirements, council voted 6-2 to continue the public hearing until next Monday. That gives staff time to assess the liability risk and determine if the insurance standards are adequate or need to be updated.

Additionally, Lee County is expected to pass legislation later this year to regulate all taxi and limousine services countywide. The aim is to streamline and simplify the permit process without the need for multiple background checks with duplicate fees to obtain permits in municipalities and unincorporated areas of the county.

In answer to an inquiry by Burch, Community Development Director Vince Cautero said the city still could require a city permit in addition to the county permit if it so desires, but such services still must obtain a city Business Tax Receipt to operate within the city limits.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for next Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.