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County makes technology strides

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

Orange County has made major improvements in its use of technology over the past two years, according to a report presented to the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The report from the county’s information technologies department outlined the department’s major accomplishments in 2009 and 2010, including the development of the new county GIS website, which standardizes Orange County land data and provides the public with a convenient way to create address lists from maps.

Other accomplishments include the provision of streaming videos of commissioner meetings, completing the move from the county’s antiquated mainframe to upgraded computer servers and systems, the provision of new wireless hotspots and a major upgrade for the county website.

In addition, staff implemented a new jury-selection and -management system that allows the clerk of courts to directly manage jury pools without the involvement of county staff.

Board members applauded the department’s efforts.

“It’s been night and day in the two years that I’ve been sitting here on where we are and where we’ve come,” Commissioner Pam Hemminger said. “Now we can actually move forward on some things that will be very positive for the county.”

“Today’s servers are tomorrow’s mainframes, and we do have to have that kind of continuous upgrade of systems,” board Vice Chair Steve Yuhasz said, adding that upgrades will help to avoid a huge replacement 20 years down the road.

Todd Jones, chief information officer with Orange County, said the technology infrastructure is in really good shape.

“I think you will see a fair reduction in the infrastructure-related capital costs going forward,” he said.

This year, the county plans to implement technology that will archive all incoming and outbound county emails, which will improve response times to public-records requests. County Manager Frank Clifton said officials are developing a policy on county documents.

“Almost all those documents, outside of personnel, are public records,” he said. “[The new archiving technology] will just make it easier for people to do electronic searches.”

In addition, county staff plans to create online tools for residents to register their pets, reserve meeting rooms and sign up for classes, team sports and recreational facilities. Plans also include an initiative to bring public wireless access to all county buildings.

In other business, the board agreed to hold up to three work sessions a year during the day, straying from their longtime practice of holding only night meetings.

Yuhasz said holding some meetings during the day will improve access for those who cannot attend night meetings.

“If all our meetings are at night, then someone who can’t come at night can’t come and address the commissioners,” he said. “I think we should start with a couple work sessions, but I don’t want to rule out the possibility that we might at some point have a regular meeting during the day.”

Commissioner Valerie Foushee cautioned against holding too many daytime meetings, saying that such a schedule would only allow those who are independently wealthy or who have control of their work schedules to run for a seat on the board.

  1. Bryant M. Colson

    I applaude Commissioner Foushee’s comments regarding going to daily OCBOCC meetings. On September 2, 2010, the OCBOCC unanimously ADOPTED the Orange County Social Justice Goals. Outlined in one of the goals is the following:

    Ensure that Orange County residents are able to engage government through voting and volunteering by eliminating disparities in participation and barriers to participation.

    Thank you Commissioner Foushee…

    Bryant M.Colson
    Orange County Human Relations Commission Chair