Local agencies look to boost online services
October 2, 2014
In rural towns such as Craig, keeping pace with technology can be expensive and difficult for local agencies on a tight budget. This is why representatives from area organizations gathered Tuesday night at the hospital to hear about the Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority, otherwise known as SIPA.
Craig City Council member Ray Beck and Moffat County Finance Director Mindy Curtis teamed up to organize the presentation. SIPA Communications and Customer Manager Meghan Sinton came from Denver to speak with representatives from the city and county, Moffat County School District, Colorado Northwestern Community College, The Memorial Hospital and other local entities. Beck hoped to provide an opportunity for people to learn about the online services available.
"We're 21st century, and we're still doing this thing long-form," Beck said.
SIPA is a quasi-governmental agency, which was created in 2004 by the Colorado General Assembly in order to help local governmental agencies build online resources. SIPA provides or contracts with companies such as Google and Verizon to provide discounted rates on website building, payment processing, email, cloud-based technologies, online document management systems and other related services.
Moffat County and Moffat County Library have utilized SIPA's services since 2010 for their websites and online payment systems. Because of SIPA, for example, customers of Maybell Sanitation are able to pay their bills online.
SIPA, which is self-funded and receives no taxpayer dollars, also gives out $100,000 annually in micro-grants, with an average amount of $6,500 per grant to state or local government agencies.
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"SIPA's mission is to help local and state government with e-government services, putting more services online," Sinton said.
Moffat County received a grant for $7,200 from SIPA in February 2013 to create an online building permit website, which now provides an online application process for everything from demolition and building permits to septic, mobile home and wood stove permits.
"We have a huge county, so rather than running into town, it will help those businesses out to be able to focus on construction during business hours," Curtis said.
Craig City Council and Moffat County commissioners have been discussing how to partner together to use their resources more efficiently, and SIPA's affordable online services will aid them in their efforts.
"The city and county have been working pretty hard to see what services we can pool together," Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said. "The city's got a tough budget this year," and the county is projecting a tough budget for the coming year, he said.
In attendance from the college were CNCC President Russell George and Internet Technology Director Caleb Cranford, who was looking to fill some gaps in the college's online services.
"We're pretty excited about DocuSign," said Cranford after the meeting. "The whole college still runs on paper, so that's the thing I'm looking at the most."
One benefit the county has seen since signing up for online services with SIPA is the ability to offer online payment processing without spending county money on credit card processing fees. SIPA provides the option to pass costs along to the customer as a convenience charge and also provides added online security and liability protection for the county.
"It's been a real convenience for our citizens because we've been able to offer credit card and electronic payments that we weren't able to offer before," Curtis said. "We're not using taxpayer money to take any of those payments, so that's a huge savings to us."