Narrative Report for Active Records Project

Ontario County Department of Records, Archives and Information Management Services

1. Intended Results

1. To provide broader availability of information found in the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors for both County employees and the general public.

2. To reduce the search time for specific information.

3. To reduce search cost of the Proceedings by 85 to 90 %.

4. To combine existing volume-based indexes into one index for the past 25 years.

5. To scan last 25 volumes (1973 - 1998) to electronic media.

6. To retain most recent 5 volumes on Intranet server for efficient access.

7. To retain next 20 volumes on CD-ROM, to be distributed to major user departments.

8. To provide easier access to the historically important years of Proceedings (1816 - 1905) for research purposes.

 

2. Program Description

The Ontario County Department of Records, Archives and Information Management Services (RAIMS) has worked toward making information readily and efficiently available to County employees of all departments as well as the general public. Numerous indexes have been placed on the RAIMS website (http://raims.com/home.html).

However, one area that directly impacts the day-to-day business of Ontario County had not been adequately opened to research: The Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors are accessed constantly by County employees, as well as outside researchers.

The Proceedings during the past 20 years had been inadequately indexed per volume, but no attempt had been made to combine indexes of the separate volumes. Also, the Proceedings lacked an efficient cross-indexing system. For instance, a researcher attempting to find out the number of computers purchased by the Department of Information Services could not find that information under the departmental heading. The researcher had to know that the computer purchases came under a capital project and that bonds had been issued. If one adds this challenge to a lack of knowledge of the exact year (especially because some years are under the departmental heading), the research task ballooned from a few minutes to several hours of valuable time. Employees from Planning, Economic Development and Public Works spend several days at the Records and Archives Center in order to find a certain piece of information located in the Proceedings. If one takes an average salary of $25.00 per hour, a daylong information search cost $200.00 when it should not cost more than perhaps $12.50.

Although all departments search the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors, the following departments are dependent on searches covering multi-year spans: County Attorney's Office, Public Works, Human Resources, Planning, Economic Development, DSS, members of the Board of Supervisors, and the County Administrator.

The methods of attempting to access information in the Proceedings vary significantly: The minority of searches is very specific, e.g., by Resolution number and by year. However, the majority of researchers have only a vague idea regarding the year

and the category they need to search. These researchers, whether County employees or general public, needed more advanced and efficient search tools. One of the essential tools had to provide the ability to search existing indices over a span of several volumes. Another was the ability to perform an accurate and efficient text search. The latter tool was especially important for the County Attorney's Office, the Board of Supervisors, and Public Works. County Resolutions and laws are essential information sources for these departments, and often the information is required in minutes rather than hours and days.

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Although the RMO already had some of the hardware for the project, he faced some major hurdles. The entire records management staff was fully occupied with other tasks and projects and could not be diverted to a new project. A new high-speed scanner and the associated software had to be purchased. Since the County was and is facing major

capital expenses, the RMO wrote a successful grant proposal for $17,581. This permitted the appointment of a part-time computer student, and the purchase of hardware and software, including the ISYS indexing program.

Thanks to the fact that the computer student had more expertise than was expected, the project progressed much faster than hoped for. Within two months, the first five volumes of the Proceedings had been scanned, run through Omnipage OCR program (Version 10), and uploaded to the Intranet of the County. Xerox's Docushare program, on the Records and Archives Center server, provides the power engine for the project. Five years of Proceedings can now be searched by key word or phrase. For most users, the five volumes are sufficient. Power users, such as the County Attorney's Office, required greater portability for the information. The County Attorney and his staff, the County Administrator, the Treasurer's Office, Board of Supervisiors, County Clerk, Human Resources, and the Commissioners for Social Services and Public Works have received the first twenty-five volumes of Proceedings on two CD ROMs in the initial distribution.

Portability was essential in many cases. For instance, the County Attorney can have quick access to the Proceedings in Union negotiations, at Board Committee meetings and at the monthly meetings of the Board of Supervisors.

For this specific project, the following hardware was utilized:

Gateway Computer, memory 128; 450 mhz Pentium 3; 13 Gigb hard drive

Panasonic Duplex Scanner KV25SS-D

Compaq Server running NT

HP CD Writer 4x

The following software was essential for the success of the project:

ISYS Indexing Software

CD Writer Plus

Paperport

XEROX Docushare (residing on Compaq Server)

Panasonic drivers included in Scanner hardware

A paper guillotine was essential to cut pages from the bound volumes of the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors. In our case, the County Printing Office provided the service.

(NOTE: All volumes of Proceedings were duplicate copies. It is not recommended to cut apart unique volumes ).

The XEROX Docushare software was utilized on the server because it permits the employees to use either their familiar Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape. This cuts down the learning time to virtually nothing.

Actual Cost of the Program

 

The entire direct cost of the project was funded through a grant from the Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund of the New York State Archives and Records Administration. ($17,581)

Part-time, temporary position: $13,225

Software: $980

Hardware: $9,376 (High-end computer, server, scanner, CD writer, CD juke box)

Results and Success of Program

The project resulted in immediate benefits - not only in convenience, but also in cost savings, particularly in the County Attorney's Office, for the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, and for the County Administrator's Office.

Examples:

Statistical Analysis: The County Attorney was asked by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors to provide information on how many Board Resolutions were laid over per year during the past ten years. Since the terms "Layover" or "Laid Over" do not appear in the printed index of the Proceedings volumes, each session of the Board of Supervisors needed checking. The estimated time required was 10 hours at $200 per hour (standard County Attorney cost rate). As a result of this project, time was cut to 6 minutes.

Resolution Search: Within the past fifteen years, a Resolution was passed by the Board of Supervisors to provide uniform allowances to certain employees. The issue came up in recent union negotiations. Since the negotiator had his laptop and the CD ROM with him, the pertinent Resolution could be found within three minutes, eliminating a manual search through fifteen separate bound volumes.

Road and Bridge Projects: The County faces substantial road and bridge repairs in the next two years. All Public Works information in the Proceedings is immediately available for analysis.

Queries at Board of Supervisor Sessions: The County Administrator, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, and County Attorney can now provide almost immediate answers to questions regarding prior Resolutions or local laws. Prior to this project, manual search of the Proceedings was necessary, creating inconvenience and delays.

Responses to General Public: The Secretary to the County Administrator received a request for information from a student pertaining to the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors for 1999. As a result of this project, the 1999 Proceedings are not only available on the local server, but also on the County Internet site. The Secretary could thus refer the student directly to the Internet address.

The project "Electronic Access to Local Laws and Resolutions" has resulted in time and cost savings for the County of Ontario. Although the actual cost of the project is relatively low, especially since the software and hardware will be utilized for other projects, the benefits are major. Within one year, the project paid for itself in time saving. However, even more important is the convenience of the program. It combines fast access on the local network with the portability of CD ROM technology.

There is another benefit that cannot be easily measured because it is psychological. As we need to compress more and more records into electronic form, we get a certain amount of resistance. Many employees still are more comfortable with paper than with electronic records. A program, such as "Electronic Access to Local Laws and Resolutions" with its convenience is a good introduction to the benefits of electronic records.

The project resulted in an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

 

3. SARA Staff and Program

There is no doubt that this project would not have been possible without the LGRMIF grant program and the knowledgeable staff of the New York State Archives. Informal discussions with the Albany staff and the Region VII Records Advisory Officer eliminate the feeling of isolation from which many of the records management officers suffer. What is perhaps even more important than the expertise of the Archives staff is their constant encouragement to improve records management of the local level.

4. Advisory Committee

With this particular project, most members of the Advisory Committee were the direct beneficiaries. The RMO contacted a core group of the Advisory Committee plus the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors prior to writing the grant application. During the project, the RMO was in contact with members of the Advisory Committee via e-mail and telephone, and then for a demonstration of the first CD-ROM and its search capabilities. It became clear that the CD ROM production needed to be modified to permit all computers to read the CDs, not only the high-end ones. After this little glitch, there was no further reason to contact the Advisory Committee, except to provide training.

5. Local Government Support

The Ontario County Board of Supervisors supports the overall records management program with a budget of over $300,000 and a staff of eight. This particular project will be continued with County funds. The most recent Proceedings are and will be available on the County Internet site to promote totally open government and to allow citizens to become aware of County government issues.

6. Relation to Previous Projects

The major thrust of the RAIMS records management plan is to 1) provide safe storage for government records 2) provide efficient access 3) compress records as a cost saving measure and to make records easily available to authorized users.

The Department of RAIMS has a major, ongoing microfilming and electronic records program for active and inactive records. Many of the special projects, however, have been funded through LGRMIF grants. These include microfilming of real property deeds and Surrogate Court records, conversion of microfilm records for easy user access on CD-ROM. Each grant is a move toward the creation of greater efficiency and service to internal and external customer of RAIMS.

7. The project will be continued with County funds. New Proceedings will be sent to the RMO by the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. The RMO will post them on both the Internet at http://www.co.ontario.ny.us/supervisors/ and on the County Intranet for those employees without Internet access.

8. The project has significantly increased the efficiency for researching local laws, resolutions and minutes. See detailed description in "project activities."

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