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City seeks to revamp operating infrastructure

Date: 12/19/2012

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — The city launched its new website on Dec. 14, and now offers a feature that enables residents to report issues, such as potholes and fallen trees, to the Department of Public Works (DPW).

"The online work order system enables the public to file a request online, track its progress and see when the work is completed," Mayor Daniel Knapik said.

This project is one of many that are underway in Westfield, in an attempt to bring the operating infrastructure into the modern era. An online payment option will also be added to the website in the near future.

"People want to interact 24/7 with their government," Knapik stated. "Our system was antiquated and in much need of improvement. It took three years to upgrade to the system that we have today."

Upgrading to credit card machines is another improvement the offices have added.

In May, as part of the initiative, the city began testing CitiStat, a data analysis process that assists municipalities with tracking departmental progress in order to streamline functional procedures. The DPW is the focus of the pilot, and the first results were released to the City Councilors in mid-October.

"The CitiStat process can be applied to any part of government to gauge how departments are faring and what improvements are needed," Denise Carey, team leader of the CitiStat team and director of Licensing and Permitting, said.

According to Carey, the ongoing cycle consists of gathering information, analyzing that data, conducting a meeting to review the stats,

The CitiStat team consists of Carey, City Auditor Deborah Strycharz, Assistant Personnel Director Jeffrey Krok, and Information Technology Manager Lenore Bernashe.

Carey noted, "The goal of this process is not to pick out what's wrong with government, it's a process to enhance government."

The mayor told Reminder Publications the data collected by the process furnishes insightful details that allows the city to better manage its workforce, to become faster and more efficient.

"CitiStat provides a better understanding of the work the department is doing. The DPW has been grappling with staffing issues. We're still trying to perfect the data collection process — the program work is not being captured, 70 percent of that is generated by phone requests from the public," Knapik said.

Carey stated, "We are making some ground, but it is a slow process. The biggest challenge is collecting the data."

New England StatNet is one resource the city has to tackle issues with the implementation of CitiStat. The group is a network of municipal governments that utilize CitiStat and meet to discuss the process while offering each other support by sharing their experiences and knowledge.

At this point, the city has not set a time when CitiStat will be expanded to other departments. The process is still in the development stage.