November 14, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.

County commissioners OK website update and tech policies

County commissioners OK website update and tech policies
County commissioners OK website update and tech policies

Social media and the wireless information age had the County Board’s attention last week for most of the regular agenda. The county has muddled along with a less-than-stellar website for years; and County Administrator Bruce Messelt brought a software supplier to the Board’s attention that can address all the website’s shortcomings and more. Messelt said CivicPlus is behind a number of nice looking, user friendly sites and he recommends having the county buy their product and re-do the website (www.co.chisago.mn.us) 

The project will require 16 to 22 weeks to provide the county’s completely revamped site, prodviding a “bevy of options” that CivicPlus has to offer, added Messelt. The cost of $42,370 will be alleviated somewhat in coming years as the current expenses budgeted to “maintain” the county’s site will drop-off significantly, the commissioners were advised. The commissioners were also asked to adopt policies on “devices” that county employees are already using. The administration needs to address “multiple phone” situations where government data needs to be kept separate from private personal phone and other handheld device uses. The policy, among other things, requires department heads to determine if a wireless device is integral to the job and if the employee can use a personally owned device and be reimbursed by the county, or if a county-issued device is necessary.

The policy also defines the need for public data to be retained and available upon request. Messelt gave an example of a zoning enforcement officer taking a photo of a code violation on his personal phone. The data must be preserved within a government controlled information system and there must be guidelines for what is public versus personal information, and requirements for information retention. The Board also gave the go-ahead to use of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Messelt said some departments will find these capabilities very useful and some won’t be on the sites at all, but he feels action on the policies help spell out how the use will be “effectively managed.” Commissioner George McMahon had specific questions about his use of devices, and was told the policies being reviewed were employee guidelines. Commissioners with questions about disclosing their device use or about the legality of photography or audio recording uses can get individual counsel for their concerns. And, while it’s not a technology based concern-- the fact that the county is leasing more vehicles and not buying them outright-- is another sign of the times. 

The Board unanimously approved a request for four more vehicles in the general motor pool to be leased from Enterprise. The sheriff, the commissioners were told, is also asking to lease seven non-pursuit vehicles for his department, for a total lease package from Enterprise of 11 vehicles. The Board also had a powerpoint presentation from the county public health department on the process of writing the mandatory Community Health Assessments and engagement strategies. Chisago County is using funding through the State Health Improvement Program or SHIP to draft this plan and engage the community, the schools, local clinics and others. Funding runs through October 2015. The five counties in the east central part of Minnesota are sharing $873,203. Chisago County actively particiupated in the first phases of SHIP and then funding was cut and 25 counties were no longer able to get support. In the 2013 legislative session $21.2 million was appropriated and funding made more accessible to all counties. 

The MN Dept. of Health reported a study (cited in a state press release) that a five percent decrease in Minnesotans’ Body Mass Index (BMI) would reduce healthcare costs by billions of dollars over 10 years. The county commissioners were told a public health survey was mailed to 1,200 addresses and the county only got 238 responses. The majority of respondents did say that exercise, nutrition and obesity are concerns and should be recognized in the county plan. FYI... County offices are closed for Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, Nov 28 and 29.


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