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BIZ - 2021-07-01

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IMPROVING HOW WE DO BUSINESS

Biz Cityofyuma

Jennifer Reichelt is the deputy city administrator for the City of Yuma. She can be reached at 928-373-5031, or Jennifer.Reichelt@YumaAZ.gov.✶

OVER THE PAST 15 months, the City of Yuma, like other municipalities and organizations all over the country, had to learn to navigate and operate in an unknown environment. This once-a-century community crisis known as the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we do business. Within 48 hours of the governor declaring an emergency in Arizona, the City had already transitioned a number of services to a virtual environment. The City operates 24 hours a day and over the weeks that followed, it had developed many innovative ways to ensure residents continued to receive quality services while serving the community remotely or in a virtual environment. For example, community meetings were held online, building inspections were done via smartphones and tablets, and the City allowed for increased non-emergency police reporting through virtual means. As the City returned to an in-person service environment, much of the technology and new processes implemented due to COVID-19 are here to stay. In many cases, the online and virtual environment made us examine how we do business and in turn we were able to provide improved services for our residents. The following is a high-level overview of the new technology and changes that have taken place at the City of Yuma over the last 15 months. Customer Service Because some staff had to transition to a virtual or remote environment for weeks on end, staff is now more accessible than ever! To ensure the safety of our 24/7 workforce, remote work options were made available in some cases, and now, even if an employee cannot be in the office they are available to meet the needs of our customers. Website In October the City unveiled a website makeover which featured a new look and updated design, as well as new features and functions. The new website was intended to be more user-friendly, making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Throughout the pandemic it was also used to provide important and timely information to residents. Public Meetings Zoom and online options are here to stay and it has become an essential part of our daily lives. From online classes to interviews and public meetings – it has become part of our normal work routine. In order to protect the public and reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission, the public was encouraged to attend meetings via Zoom. While many in the public are once again choosing to attend City Council and Planning and Zoning meetings in person, everyone now has the option to not only watch but participate via Zoom. This allows for even greater transparency and public engagement. Plan Review & Inspections The City altered the plan review and inspection process and accepted applications and plans, as well as issued permits and took payments electronically during the pandemic. Staff developed an online portal and also provided a “secure share” electronic drop box in order to accept documents, applications, and plans from customers. In addition, for those who preferred to submit paper documents, staff set up an afterhours drop box for customers to use whenever City Hall was closed to the public. Both options – the online portal and after hours drop box – are now available to customers. During the lengthy pandemic, staff expanded the use of virtual inspections using tablets. Staff now offers more inspections using this technology – solar inspections, some roof nailing inspections and other simpler type inspections. In addition, City staff held virtual predevelopment meetings for customers and will continue to offer this option moving forward. Bill Payment Because in-person interactions were often limited during the pandemic, the City promoted its online payment options and launched a new and improved electronic bill and payment service through Invoice Cloud. The new service provides greater flexibility in viewing and paying City services bills. Customers can now pay online, by phone (24/7), by text, as well as via Apple and Google Pay. Bonfire In January the City launched a new digital procurement tool called Bonfire designed to make the bidding process easier and more transparent for prospective vendors. Bonfire allows contractors and other vendors to access City business opportunities and submit bids or proposals electronically via the cloud. Recruitment The City continued to recruit and hire workers during the pandemic. Interviews were conducted virtually and the City launched a paperless onboarding program for new hires. Both processes will continue well past the pandemic. Public Safety This year, the City purchased and deployed six portable UV-C disinfection lamps that kill virtually all viral and bacterial pathogens encountered in the field in as little as 60 seconds. These UV-C lamps are used inside ambulances, fire trucks, and fire stations. They were purchased because of the need to properly disinfect vehicles and equipment during the pandemic. However, moving forward the lamps still serve a significant purpose as our EMS crews often encounter infectious pathogens, such as influenza, staph, tuberculosis, meningitis, and more. The City also purchased and began using five Lucas 3 automated chest compression devices, which can be applied to a cardiac arrest patient in less than 7 seconds, and deliver chest compressions at an optimal rate and depth. These devices can provide perfect CPR for as long as 45 minutes on a single battery charge, and the units can be plugged into an electrical outlet in the back of the ambulance for an indefinite period. The Lucas devices were purchased with an intent to minimize EMS exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious pathogens, as EMS personnel are in close proximity to aerosolized particles when performing chest compressions on cardiac arrest patients. The devices will continue to serve the community post-pandemic, as they are capable of delivering perfect chest compressions while freeing up EMS personnel to perform other critical scene activities during a cardiac arrest event. We are excited to see COVID-19 cases on the decline in Yuma County and a return to a more routine, familiar and connected way of life. As an organization we pride ourselves in providing Yuma residents with outstanding services and we are always looking for ways to improve and innovate. We look forward to continuing to serve you well into the future. #YumaStrong

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