Small change

Sometimes it’s the small numbers that bring on the most conversation.

That was the case Tuesday during the Dunkirk Common Council meeting when a former councilman questioned a resolution that would have authorized spending up to $800 to hire a grant writer.

The goal is to get a $25,000 grant to help the city digitize its records.

City resident and former elected official James Muscato asked about Resolution 9-2013 during the privilege of the floor portion of the meeting.

“I understand the city will be hiring an outside firm or outside source to put the application together. In the past, I believe, when the city applied for this it was done by the city clerk, who is actually in charge of all the records in the city,” Muscato began. “Why is the city going outside to do the application when it should be the city clerk’s duty? … Why are we spending the extra money, even if it’s less than $1,000, but still it’s money that should have been done in-house.”

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce addressed the issue during his report time.

“We spent a lot of time researching this, I would say approximately a year back and forth with our rep,” he began. “We were under the impression that this grant wasn’t going to be out there this year. We found out, I would say late last week.”

City Clerk Lacy Lawrence took over at that point.

“The grant has always been every year it seems like. The difference is we were going, actually geared, more toward the software and actually do a lot of electronic management, which the city has never done so far,” she explained. “So that’s what the big changeover is with this one.”

Lawrence added the city did not originally know the grant would fit its needs until they spoke with software dealers.

“It was a little bit expensive to get your scanning and all your software to actually adapt to all of our software that we already have because we don’t want to have to change any of that in the clerk’s office. So we did come across one they told us it would fit into this grant,” she said. “The only reason why we want to go out with somebody else to help us with the application is because it is an electronic software management which we have never actually went in for. We have done the management but there’s different levels of this management and seeing as how it’s the electronic one we’re not really experienced enough to know exactly what to gear it toward.”

Muscato replied his point was they were applying for an application with the funds. He wanted to know what the clerk is going to be doing.

“You’re asking for the money to do what you just explained you’re going to be doing. I think that should have been done in-house,” he stated.

Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak stated there would be discussion when the resolution came up to clear up some of the questions. Dolce didn’t wait.

“The only other part of it is what we’re looking to do is, we have, as you know, a full vault and we need to digitize these records. We have an opportunity to bring on someone who has a 95 percent success rate for $800. When we examined the application it simply wasn’t feasible to be done in-house in less than a month’s time,” the mayor stated. “This individual, if approved by council, this is what he does. He goes out, he has the template, he’s 95 percent successful. So I felt and in our explanation to the council, we felt it was worth an $800 investment to bring on someone of this caliber.”

“He’s going to do all the record changing?” Muscato asked.

“And the followup legwork,” Dolce replied. “So not only will he do the initial application, he’ll do the stuff that’s required six and nine months down the road. So we felt it was a worthy investment.”

After the meeting Dolce added to the explanation of the grant application.

“It could lead to $25,000 and what we would do initially with this software is begin digitizing all of our records 25 years and older,” Dolce stated. “We have a lot of sensitive materials that we need to hold on to and to be able to have them in a digital format would only make city government more efficient.”

Dolce was asked if certain records would be destroyed once they are digitized.

“That’s the goal, certain records, and we’re in the process of figuring that out. Certain records you have to hold on to for ‘x’ amount of years, others, you don’t,” he replied. ” … We want to start destroying because we have a very full vault and we’re literally running out of space.”

Dolce added requests should be handled more quickly with a digitized system.

Send comments on this story to gsnyder@observertoday.com