Anticipating the continuation of more intricate technologies for public services — along with a desire to seek related grant funds — Defiance City Hall is moving forward on an “innovation policy.”
The initiative was shared by Administrator Jeff Leonard during city council’s meeting Tuesday night. Council also handled two legislative items and discussed progress on addressing an eyesore issue and a health-related matter (see related story).
Leonard referenced an initiative through the state governor’s office called InnovateOhio, in which technical innovations will be targeted to improve state services. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted is director of InnovateOhio.
According to the governor’s office website “Husted’s vision for InnovateOhio is to look at every state service through the eyes of customers — Ohio citizens and businesses — and create a culture of innovation in state government by using technology to improve people’s lives, transform services and ultimately, save money for taxpayers.”
Leonard noted that adopting an innovation policy could help the city acquire grants (presumably for future technology initiatives).
He told council: “I think when you look at how technology is sort of changing the way we do business ... if we can adopt (an innovation policy) it gives us kind of a step in the door to grants and things like that because if you look at what’s happening in Ohio they (state government) have a brand that they’re trying to really push out called InnovateOhio, and I think we want to be prepared for that.”
Actually, the city already is moving forward on some technological innovations, according to Leonard.
For example, he noted that the city’s Canal Road reservoir utilizes a sensor that measures such things as algae and water temperature.
“The water quality issues are something that we like to keep an eye on and stay ahead of for chemical purposes and just applying that to the process of making water,” said Leonard.
Raw water is pumped from the Maumee River into the reservoir before being refined at the city’s water treatment plant on Baltimore Road and distributed to Defiance customers.
So, the river’s water quality is not only intrinsic to the city’s treatment process, but also important in trying to manage algae blooms in the Lake Erie watershed and Lake Erie.
“We are to use technology in that process to help try to fight some of the algae blooms that you see in the river,” explained Leonard. “And you can do that by sensor technology, and you can do that by measuring kind of what’s coming into the river. ... I think we’re finding ourselves more and more getting involved in that technology.”
But Leonard indicated that a phone app to be used for the city police department may be the most immediate technology focus. The app will allow officers to input information during investigations to make reports more efficiently.
“This phone app can give such a big head start on really looking at ways to provide better efficiencies with paperwork because a good bulk of their (officers’) job is paperwork,” said Leonard. “... the efficiencies that it can provide are really amazing, so as we move forward I’ll just sort of keep council informed as to how its working out and where we go from here.”
The program will be modeled upon one already in use by the county sheriff’s office. In fact, Matt Hanenkrath — the county’s E911 director — recently helped the city become familiar with the system, according to Mayor Mike McCann.
At-large Councilman Steve Waxler called the technology “a great system,” but asked if officers would be using their personal phones because he doesn’t want “somebody’s personal information getting into somebody’s phone, and we end up with a lawsuit.”
Leonard assured him this would not be the case.
“They’re city phones and they are going to be designed to be used for those purposes,” he said. “... This is a device that’s used by a public official in a public capacity ... .”
He added that the security concerns are “all the more important reason to have (an innovation) policy.”
According to Leonard, the phones will be provided at no charge, but the apps will cost approximately $120 per phone.