City of Pelham to expand government documents online

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The city of Pelham has posted City Council minutes online for many years, but the city will soon expand its open government approach and take it to the people.

The city has begun testing a new program by TriNovus, a financial software company, called the VendorVault Document Management System.

VendorVault will open up City Hall to the citizens, allowing residents to access council agendas, council minutes, council work session minutes, ordinances, resolutions, deeds, leases, vehicle titles, contracts and more via the Internet.

All documents will be included on the site, including ones dating back all the way to the city’s beginnings in 1964.

The city began loading documents to the site Feb. 17, and has since loaded 1,049 documents dating back to 1979.

The system should be available to the public in two- to three weeks, and should be completely updated by September.

In addition to serving as a back-up for many of the city’s documents that were hand-written previous to the mid-1980s, it will also serve as a back-up to the city’s current electronic documents.

“The city of Pelham was incorporated on July 10, 1964, and since that time all city records have been maintained in a paper format, which has been a great concern of mine,” said City Clerk Tom Seale. “Almost everything we have is paper. Nothing is digital. If City Hall burns down, we have nothing.”

In addition to Pelham, the city of Columbiana has also approved use of the system.

Starr Largin, a marketing representative for TriNovus, said the system would also be a huge benefit to cities with part-time mayors, such as Columbiana.

“It gives them the capability to pull up documents at anytime, whether they are in the office or on the road,” Largin said. “This gives not only the public access, but it also is beneficial to city accountants and lawyers. It’s access 24/7.”

Seale, who also serves as a Columbiana City Council member, said the system will be extremely beneficial to both cities’ citizens and employees.

“The ability for the mayor, city council, employees, the public and media to have complete and immediate access to all public records is a tremendous asset in our efforts to be completely transparent in city government,” Seale said.

Since Pelham is one of the first municipalities to use the system, the city is also serving as a testing ground to let TriNovus know what works, what doesn’t work and how things can be improved.

One way Seale said the system will immediately help the city is by reducing clerical costs and time.

By saving time, money and opening up City Hall, Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said it is a win-win for the city.

“This will allow us to be more transparent to the public and help them in the cyber age we’re in,” Murphy said. “It’s another way of saving for the city and it will expedite things for the people.”