City looks to digital future
Downstairs in Rosemount City Hall there are boxes full of paperwork. Council packets, meeting minutes and more sit collecting dust.
For years, it’s how the city kept documents, but in 2008 that changed. The city bought an electronic document system to start keeping things. That first system wasn’t user friendly, but it was clear, it was the future.
The city eventually changed over to Laserfiche and city staff will tell you it’s a pretty slick system. Over the last few years every department in the city has started using it and its impact has been big.
“It’s amazing,” said Jayson Solberg, the city’s IT director.
Laserfiche is an electronic document management system. The program, which is provided by Crabtree Companies, can store any document and all file types as long as the native application is installed into the local machine.
Solberg said the system provides a number of benefits including quicker access to information, improved access to public records, streamlined city processes and reduced paper use. Most important, he said, the system makes keeping large amounts of information much more efficient.
As one can imagine, the city stores a lot of information, said city clerk Amy Domeier. The city keeps records of all meetings dating back to when Rosemount was a village. Additionally, the city keeps documents on every property in the city’s borders. Each department also has records including streets, utilities, fire, police and more.
“The city has a huge repository of information,” said Domeier.
Before technology the city kept many of its records in boxes in the basement of city hall. Finding something was a tedious process.
All new documents are now scanned into the system. City staff has also spent the last several years scanning historical documents. Domeier said when staff has some down time, staff scans.
While they have been working for several years to add information into the system, Domeier said they have a lot left to do. To aid in the process every time city staff accesses the paper documents, everything in that box is scanned into the Laserfiche system at the same time.
The Laserfiche system is easy to use, which Domeier said has helped city staff embrace the system. It’s set up much like a Windows interface, Domeier said.
For residents, it means the city staff can access public records quickly. The system has text recognition, making it easy to search for information. Solberg said that has come in handy especially for people looking for information about their properties. Past building permits, platting documents and more can be brought up with a quick search.
The system has helped the city cut down on paper use. For example, each city council member used to get a copy of the city council packet. City council packets generally contain hundreds of pages. Domeier said she would spend most of her day on Fridays at the copier, making the packets.
Now she scans the original documents into the Laserfiche system and each member of the city council receives an electronic copy. Domeier said the system has saved the city thousands of dollars a year in paper costs. Additionally, the city did not replace the copier that Domeier used to make packets.
There are some costs, though. The city’s computer storage requirements have increased by 300 percent since staff started using Laserfiche. Recently, the city council approved replacing the city’s electronic storage unit with a larger unit.
Upgrading the system is something the city will have to do regularly, said Solberg. Solberg said it’s just what technology demands.
Solberg said the city council budgets to replace its electronic storage units every four or five years.
The bigger picture
Overall, Domeier said the system has made many of the city’s programs more efficient.
After the documents are scanned in, the electronic form becomes the permanent copy. The original document is either recycled or destroyed. Some departments insist on keeping paper copies, she said.
Going forward, Solberg said city staff plans to streamline some of the city’s processes through Laserfiche, such as acquiring permits. Laserfiche has a lot more capabilities, and Solberg said he’s excited to see what the system can do.
Many neighboring governments, including other cities and the county, have Laserfiche as well. Solberg said they’ve been able to share best practices on ways to get the most out of the system.