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City to spend money to save money

Mayor budget plan funds items expected to cut costs over time

Sept. 27, 2011

The mayor's budget calls for funding $250,000 in capital projects through a new internal granting process.

Under the system, departments will be able to apply for funds to make a one-time purchase that helps reduce costs or create long-term efficiencies, Mayor Jill Didier explained.

The proposed budget funds several such requests.

Electronic meeting prep

The city clerk's office is set to receive agenda management software that will streamline the process of creating and distributing meeting information for the Common Council. E-readers or electronic tablets (likely an alternative brand to the iPad) would be purchased for council members to view meeting documents. The same vendor would be asked to provide technology for streaming meetings online.

Visitors to the city website would be able to watch a portion of a meeting by clicking on an agenda item, allowing viewers to access the information they are interested in without having to sit through the whole meeting, City Administrator James Archambo said.

The idea is to make city government easier to access and understand while saving the numerous hours of printing and filing required to prepare meeting materials, he added.

Scheduling more efficiently

The Fire Department is tagged to benefit from automated scheduling and timekeeping technology that will replace handwritten timecards and help with scheduling time off. The change will lighten administrative workload and thereby allow the department to reduce one deputy chief position, Archambo said.

Most of the city already has transitioned to the system, so this will help get everyone on the same page. The technology provides real-time information that helps identify trends and keep overtime costs down.

Saving electricity

Money also is allocated for the Department of Public Works to convert 175 alley lights to energy-efficient models.

Didier admits she questioned why alley lights would make enough of a difference to warrant a grant. She learned that those lights aren't metered, so they constantly use energy. The conversion would result in an instant cost savings, she said.

Traffic and Electrical Superintendent Randy Michelz is negotiating with We Energies on a rate based on using less wattage. The process could take more than six months, as the energy company will have to go to the Public Service Commission for approval.

Alderwoman Kathleen Causier said she's concerned about providing sufficient lighting in alleys due to reports of garage burglaries and people being accosted in alleys after they pull into their garage.

Michelz is checking out lighting options and said he believes LED lights will provide better illumination.

"A lot of residents don't think there is enough illumination as it is," he said.

Public Works also will use internal grant funds to replace streetlights with LED versions in the neighborhood surrounding the Bluemound Road construction. The state agreed to install LED lights as part of the project because Bluemound is a state highway. By switching the rest of the neighborhood at the same time, one entire substation would be converted. Staff would be able to better track energy use and savings, Public Works Director Bill Porter said.

Automating inspection data

Finally, the Health Department will get database technology to help with licensing and communicating electronically with the state. The system has the capability to automate notices for restaurant, pool and other inspections.

Capital requestDepartment receivingCity investment/grant amountPayback
Agenda management technologyClerk's Office$29,000$8,600 annual savings due to efficiencies
Automated schedulingFire Department$49,000$37,000 in annual labor efficiencies
Business licensing databaseHealthDepartment $11,000$12,000 annual labor efficiencies
LED streetlightsDepartment of Public Works$97,575$9,214 annual electricity savings

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