I was surprised to learn this week that at the end of 2009, the City of Northfield spent $23,000 for a laserfiche/document management system (p. 13 of the disbursement PDF; company: Crabtree). I thought it was still being considered. I asked City Clerk Deb Little to point me to the council agenda, packet, and minutes where the purchase was discussed and voted on.
Surprise #2: Deb wrote:
This was approved through the budget approval process. In addition, the dollar amount falls under the cap that the City Administrator is able to approve.
No Council discussion? Not even a consent agenda item?
The only documentation I could find on the need for a laserfiche system was the Sept. 25, 2009 Friday Memo in which Deb wrote:
A request for quotations for an electronic document management system called Laserfiche was sent out this week. Some of the benefits of this system include increased: staff productivity & efficiency, public information accessibility, departmental information sharing, City application integration, disaster recovery preparedness and preservation, and compliance with state law on records retention requirements. Studies done on electronic document management systems show that they reduce: lost records, copies and storage space, customer service response time, staff time spent searching for information, and information liability.
The Council’s draft of its Strategic direction/goals puts the laserfiche project under Goal #2: “Develop and implement a plan for sustainable citizen communication.” I’m not convinced that laserfiche is mainly about sustainable citizen communication. It does have some features that would be helpful to citizens. And my one-hour test run shows it has some problems.
Here’s the City of Faribault’s Laserfiche link.
- I searched for “CodeRed” which is referenced in many documents on the City of Faribault’s website. Laserfiche returned no results.
- I searched for “water restrictions” which is a top story on the city’s website where it’s linked to a PDF. I got ten laserfiche results, but nothing for 2010. I did find two from 2006 titled “City of Faribault Public Notice Water Restrictions". Clicking them, I got this error message: “You do not have the necessary permissions to view the entry ’06-04-2006 City of Faribault Public Notice Water Restrictions’.”
- I browsed the Faribault laserfiche documents starting here, working my way to the 05-11-10 City Council Meeting Packet? (which, oddly, doesn’t display a unique URL in the address bar). Each agenda item in the packet has its own URL, the pages can be viewed either as images or text, and you can select whichever pages you want and turn them into a PDF to download or link to… all of which is very nice to have.
I’m not informed enough about the pros and cons of laserfiche but I commented to Mayor Mary Rossing back in mid-February in a discussion here on Locally Grown that I thought it was
unconscionable for the City to pursue an expensive laserfiche/document management system right now. Taxpayers shelled out $80,000 for a new website just 5 years ago that was supposed to address that and other issues.
Something has failed. Is it a problem with the platform? Training? Skills? I think Council and staff owe taxpayers an explanation of the pros and cons of that $80K expenditure before more money is spent.
Alas, I didn’t realize at the time that it was a done deal two months prior.