Minutes of the meeting of June 30, 2009
The Newtown Township Technology Committee met on June 30, 2009 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were Chairman Edward Lipski and members Robert Bowers, Lynne Brennan, Arun Chaudhary and Anand Shukla. Also in attendance was Township Supervisor Mike Gallagher and township Administrative Assistant Olivia Kivenko.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:30 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Mr. Lipski moved to accept the minutes of May 26, 2009. Mr. Bowers seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Organization of Committee: Mr. Lipski explained that the position of vice chairman is open. The vice chairman, following the agenda, leads meetings in the absence of the chairman. It is Mr. Lipski’s hope that after a short period the vice chairman position could evolve into a co-chair arrangement, which is currently done by the Township’s Environmental Advisory Committee.
Mr. Lipski moved to nominate Mr. Shukla to serve as vice chairman. Mr. Bowers seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Park and Recreation Web Site: For the benefit of the new members in attendance, Mr. Lipski reviewed the history of the Committee’s work to update the Township’s Park and Recreation Web site to be more responsive and to allow for on-line registration. With the Park and Recreation Director, he has reviewed a third party provider’s offering, called myrecdepartment.com, which is used by Northampton’s recreation department. He has spoken to the programmer for myrecdepartment.com and learned that the reports used by our Recreation Department can be generated. Our Township employees can easily make changes to class offerings and track the registrations. Before making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, however, Mr. Lipski said that he would want to have a comparison bid from another provider.
Mr. Lipski said that myrecdepartment.com, in addition to initial costs for setting up the program and hosting, would charge $0.10 per transaction. Credit card companies also charge a fee. The Township currently has an arrangement with TD Bank for credit card transactions at no charge. He would speak to the finance department to see if this can be extended to the recreation Web site.
Mr. Shukla said that perhaps a cost comparison could be made to see whether there would be increased enrollments with the on-line registration availability, since presently registration can only be done during business hours by telephone or in person.
Mr. Shukla and Ms. Brennan expressed interest in getting involved with this project moving forward and participating in meetings with other third party vendors.
Technology for Municipal Building: Mr. Lipski reported that the Committee has been investigating technology for the new building, particularly for the meeting rooms. The Committee has been considering use of Smartboards for the televised meetings, making it possible to show plans electronically rather than with the television camera focused on a plan on an easel. The Board of Supervisors might have Netbooks on the dais to view and even mark up plans. Jon Schnell has volunteered to work on putting together some demonstrations of Smartboard capabilities.
The Committee is also looking into conference calling and video conference technology as well as wireless connections in public areas, perhaps with kiosks for the public to register for park and recreation programs, and looking ahead, filing for permits or variances with the Codes Department.
Ms. Brennan asked if the Committee has done any brand comparisons.
Mr. Lipski noted that Mr. Horan has been investigating Promethian products, which are used by Council Rock School District.
Mr. Gallagher said that it is his hope that as the Township’s offices move to the new building, this Committee can help with the gradual elimination of paper. He has begun working with Ms. Kivenko on reducing the Board packets’ size by using electronic copies, and has been using his laptop at Board meetings. He would also like to gradually reduce the paper for other committees, boards and commissions as well as with the administration and staff.
Ms. Kivenko said that she has particular concerns with controlling input for the Board packets and would like to establish a format for this.
Ms. Brennan said that SharePoint might be a solution and volunteered to research this further.
Mr. Chaudhary asked about retention of old documents.
Ms. Kivenko said that the Township is required to maintain certain documents in their original form; the Township has file storage off site as well as throughout the complex. Gradually, documents are being entered into a Docstar system to preserve them electronically, so that files can be reduced.
The new members had a number of questions about the servers. They agreed to communicate before the next meeting to have questions for Alan Herr, the Township’s technology consultant, who is expected to attend the July meeting.
Other Business: Mr. Gallagher said that the Financial Planning Committee has been reviewing each department’s proposed 2010 budget and a number of questions have come up regarding technology expenses. He said that it might be helpful if one of this committee’s members could attend the July 16 Financial Planning meeting to help in discussions.
Mr. Lipski said that he would try to attend.
Mr. Gallagher said that the version of Docstar used by the Township is no longer supported and will need to be upgraded. He asked the Committee to make recommendations of either upgrading Docstar, a document imaging product which has optical character recognition and some redaction capabilities, or possibly investigating a comparable product.
Ms. Kivenko said that the Township employees are frequently searching through scanned documents, some going back many years,. The employees need to have easy access to documents, especially since the open records laws have been adopted.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has recently spoken to Tammy Sutton, our tax collector, who has expressed some interest in getting help to upgrade the technology in the tax office.
Mr. Bower suggested that he might be able to help with the tax collector and suggested asking her to attend the August meeting.
Mr. Chaudhary said that he might also be able to help with that project and suggested that he and Mr. Bowers contact Ms. Sutton in advance of the August meeting to learn about her requirements.
Mr. Gallagher asked Mr. Lipski to give a brief report to the Board of Supervisors at a July meeting.
Mr. Lipski moved to adjourn at 9:00 PM. Mr. Chaudhary seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary