Howey-in-the-Hills, FL, Reduces Costs and Improves Resident and Staff Experiences with Integrated Technology from CivicPlus®
Town:Lake County, FL
The town was spending a lot of time and resources on manual tasks and also needed a way to engage its involved community easily.
Agenda and Meeting Management, Municode Codification, Municipal Website, Social Media Archiving.
Stakeholders cut costs and save time implementing easy-to-use, connected systems, while residents benefit from instant access to the town's content and services.
Howey-in-the-Hills is one of 14 municipalities in Lake County, FL. The small, welcoming Town hosts residents who are very passionate and involved with their community.
When it came time to search for a solution for the Clerk’s office to move away from manual processes and streamline the agenda process, Howey-in-the-Hills became impressed with CivicPlus’ Agenda and Meeting Management Essential solution. In addition to time- and cost-savings potentials involving agenda management, the product offered integration capabilities with the Town’s existing solutions – its CivicPlus Municipal Website and Municode Codification – which boosted promising benefits to both staff and residents.
Integrated Agenda and Meeting Management Solution Saves Staff Time and Reduces Costs by at Least $25,000 a Year
Before implementing CivicPlus Agenda and Meeting Management Essential, John Brock, the Town Clerk, and the Town were manually creating meeting agendas, which could be an arduous, time-consuming process.
“We came from very manual processes,” said Brock. “Everything was processed just in Word or Excel. Before I would have folders on a hard drive I would go through. When we wanted to make a packet, we would have to compress it into a Zip file. You’d have to put it in, say, Dropbox or something because email wouldn’t take due to its size. Every time there was a change, you’d have to repackage the whole thing together and send it out again like that.”
When it came time to look for an automated solution for agenda creation and meeting management, Brock was searching for solutions that would be easy to use, especially for people not coming from IT backgrounds. Additionally, the town was already partnering with CivicPlus for its website and codification services.
There were two or three other vendors that we looked at. But the software appeared very user friendly and straightforward to learn for anyone involved, and the fact that it was integrated with what I already had [Municode Codification and a CivicPlus website] was a huge plus. The ability to integrate all three solutions and align them together has been huge time saver for me.
Town of Howey-in-the-Hills
Agenda and Meeting Management Results:
- Countless hours of time-savings per each of its five council meetings a month by automating manual processes:
- Agenda Creator and Automatic PDF Conversion: “I don’t have to convert everything to a PDF to put something into it. I just throw the document into it, and it creates the PDF itself. I love that when creating packets, you can go item by item, organize it, and name it any way you want. When you create the packet, it numbers everything by item, and it has page numbers for the whole 300 pages of the packet. So, the packet itself is easy to flip through and use. I will tell you that it saves hours of my life for every Town Council meeting.”
- Collaboration Workflow Engine: “It also allows me to send messages out to the people that I’ve assigned as users on it, saying, hey, Mr. Town Planner, I don’t have your staff recommendation on this development yet. Please put that on there… So, the workflow stuff is a time saver.”
- Improved ROI from the reduction in manual processes and the digitization of packets. In fact, we estimate that the Town is saving $25,200 a year on printing costs alone:
- “I get paid an hour, and how much she gets paid an hour, and how long it takes to create and put those packets together. If you total up those hours and the paper and the printing costs against buying five inexpensive laptops, then in the long run, you’re going to save a lot more money.”
Integrated Municode Codification Improves Access to Newly Adopted Code
CivicPlus acquired Municode in 2021, making its industry-leading Codification services and Online Code Hosting software part of the CIvicPlus Modern Civic Experience Platform. The Town had been using Municode Codification for many years, and adding an integrable CivicPlus Agenda and Meeting Management solution solved additional problems.
Beforehand, it would take time for staff and residents to access new supplements, and Brock and his team were still involved in the manual process of sending ordinances for codification. With an integrated Online Code Hosting and Agenda and Meeting Management solution, the ordinances can be sent directly to a community’s online code. Brock explains the integration and its value:
“Whenever I have an ordinance that needs to be codified, the integration with the [Essential Agenda and Meeting Management] software lets me send it directly to the [Online Code Hosting system]. The only thing you need to do is tell it which item and add the version of the signed ordinance. Then, you can send it through the software, and in minutes, if you go onto our code of ordinances, you’ll see that there’s a section in it that says Ordinances Approved, but not yet Codified. So, before, once a quarter or twice a year, we would do a supplement package, and between those supplement packages, people didn’t really have a way of knowing whether something has passed or if there’s something that’s changed. People like it because they can see the information right away. We had a big charter change recently, and as soon as the vote passed, I pushed it through as a supplement, and it showed the changes. It simply makes life easier.”
The integration has also benefited town staff.
“Because supplements get posted right away, I’ve had my code enforcement officer tell me of a time she had been searching for a specific ordinance and happened to find one she wasn’t even aware had gone through,” Brock says.
Agenda and Meeting Management and Online Code Hosting Integration Results:
- Staff time-savings due to the reduction of manual steps associated with the passing of new ordinances.
- Increased resident transparency and satisfaction, peace of mind, and staff efficiencies from instantaneous access to newly adopted code.
- Reduction in public-record requests from enhanced self-serving capabilities.
An Integrated Municipal Website Improves Content Quality Assurance and Resident Engagement
In addition to Agenda and Meeting Management and Municode Codification, the Town of Howey-in-the-Hills is hosting its website with CivicPlus, which Brock also manages.
When Brock came on board, the Town had already implemented the website. Due to his IT background, he became aware of the differences between the CivicPlus Web Open (Drupal) Content Management System (CMS) regarding ease of use and interdepartmental content collaboration.
“A plus on the side of the Drupal platform that CivicPlus is using is that I don’t have to worry about giving somebody the ability to change, say, the library section of the website and fear that they’re going to break the website,” said Brock. “Whereas with some other platforms like WordPress, certain actions could really damage a site.”
Another advantage is its integration with CivicPlus’ Online Code Hosting and Agenda and Meeting Management solutions. There were many pluses on the backend as it pertained to alignment and implementation, but there were also exciting results like improved resident engagement and satisfaction.
Municipal Website Results:
- Peace of mind from the CivicPlus CMS functionality, which works to streamline interdepartmental collaboration while providing easy oversight for the website administrator.
- Increased resident engagement and reduction in public record requests due to the integration between the Town’s Agenda and Meeting Management and Municipal Website systems — the public can easily search for, find, and share events, packets, items, and more:
- “I know that the residents are looking at the website and that they can find what they need. What’s important to them is to be able to find the agendas and the packets with the meetings. I can see they are engaged because they are posting it on Facebook. If they’re opposing a development or whatever it may be, I know that they’re looking at it because they’re reposting it. And because it’s accessible, it’s very rare that I get a public record request for that sort of thing.”
- Staff time-savings from an integrated, three-product search:
- “Integrated search [between the Agenda and Meeting Management, Online Code Hosting, and Municipal Website solutions] helps me and staff even when looking for something. I don’t have to go into my server hard drive and look for development things. I can either use the search bar and look for it or just go into the meeting I know was in and find it quickly.”
- Administrative time-savings from ease-of-use and ease of learning.
CivicPlus Social Media Archiving Brings Peace of Mind by Creating Permanent Archives
Howey-in-the-Hills uses Social Media Archiving software (formerly, ArchiveSocial), the latest addition to the CivicPlus Civic Experience Platform. Brock mentioned that certain record requests could be painful as it pertains to compliance.
The software archives resident interactions so that everything is saved in the event of a public request. Brock mentioned how the other CivicPlus solutions have assisted in reducing these requests, but he stated that the Social Media Archiving software brings peace of mind in the event a request is needed,
“It is comforting to know that they are archived out there. You know someone’s going to delete something somewhere, and you know it’s great to know that it’s already out there.”
Focusing on Positive Civic Experiences
As a do-it-all clerk in a small town with passionate residents, Brock can rest easy now, knowing he’ll spend less time dealing with disparate solutions and more time creating positive experiences for them.
Brock doesn’t hesitate to recommend the products to other new clerks.
“I can even tell you that I’ve shown it to other clerks, especially new clerks. And they have purchased it because of how easy it is to use, and everything is on it and integrated into it, and easy to change.”
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