Comptroller Jim Bowes, center, talks about the annual audit of town finances at Town Hall in Wallingford with Mayor William Dickinson, left, and councilor-elect Christine Mansfield, right, in attendence, Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal
Wallingford councilor pushes for task force to implement technology changes at Town Hall
Published: March 4, 2015 | Last Modified: March 5, 2015 01:14PM
By Eric Vo Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD — While the vice chairwoman of the Town Council’s technology committee is pushing to create a task force to implement new technology in town offices, other councilors say only the mayor can make changes, like having email and voice mail in every town department.
“I’m chomping at the bit; technology in some cases is not a ‘want’ anymore,” Town Councilor Christine Mansfield said. “We recognize the savings to the taxpayer is already happening and we’re identifying more ... I’d like to see us pursue it.” It's gone.Last month, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. again said he does not believe investing in new technology is a good use of town funds. The Republican mayor was reacting to news that the technology committee was conducting a survey of technology in town offices.
The technology committee was formed in 2010 and submitted a report to Dickinson recommending an audit and cost-benefit analysis of the town’s telephone systems, as well as posting property records online. The mayor did not support either suggestion, dissolving the committee in 2011.
It formed again in January 2014 and members have met on a number of occasions to discuss how to more efficiently deliver public services with technology.
Mansfield, a Republican, told the committee last week that she wanted to recommend that the Town Council create a task force because the committee is working on an “election cycle.” If the councilors aren’t re-elected in November, there’s a possibility the work accomplished this year could be changed.
Mansfield said the technology committee’s charge is to gather information, while a task force would work toward accomplishing technology goals.
“The nature of our committee is research-based and it’s internal,” Mansfield said. “The task force, I think, would get consensus on agreeing on a goal.”
Mansfield said the committee identified first steps, including making email and voice mail available in all town departments.
But technology committee Chairman Tom Laffin, also a Republican, said a task force cannot require the mayor or department heads to make changes.
“We don’t have any authority over the mayor or administration,” he said. “... I don’t think a task force is the way to go at this stage ... That’d be up to the mayor to form his own committee and he has a group he relies on for technology advice.”
Town Councilor John LeTourneau, another Republican on the committee, agreed with Laffin, adding that there has to be a “slow, methodical process.” He is more interested in learning what the public wants from Town Hall.
“It’s more than ‘we got to have Internet.’ Be specific; do you need to pay bills online or have access to information?” LeTourneau said. “... Once all this information is gleaned from the public and from the tech committee, you can work with a task force.”