Jun 132014

By Tammy Gray

Smartphone technology is frequently associated with games and social media, but Navajo County is using it as a tool to improve productivity and reduce liability.

The board of supervisors learned Tuesday about a new smartphone application the county’s public works department has implemented that allows staff members to quickly complete necessary inspections by automating the procedure and reducing paperwork. Planning and Zoning Director Trent Larson told the board that the smartphone inspection system automatically uploads information to the county’s computers, eliminating the need for staff members to file paper reports that are then uploaded into a database.

Initially, the application will be used for road sign inspections. Larson previously told the board that although sign inspections sound like a minor task, they significantly reduce the county’s liability. He noted that damaged signs or ones that are not properly maintained could potentially leave the county liable in a lawsuit.

The newly adopted smartphone application will create a route based on the signs to be inspected and direct the staff member along an efficient route to inspect each sign. It will also provide a checklist or form for the inspector to enter information on while completing the inspection. As information about the sign is entered, it is stored in the county’s database. If necessary, information can be retrieved instantly to determine when any sign in the system was last inspected or repaired.

“The end result is a simplified inspection process,” Larson noted. “Not only was the post-inspection time consuming with lots of opportunities for errors and mishaps, but the sign inspection would take an average of five minutes to complete. NCIS (Navajo County Inspection System) combines the smartphone technology with the sign inspection policy and now the previous five minute inspection takes 90 seconds or less to complete.”

Larson noted that with the successful implementation of the sign inspection system, the application will be expanded to cover other inspections, such as those of bridges, buildings and highways, as well as code enforcement. Eventually, the same type of technology may be expanded to assist in time consuming tasks in other county departments, eliminating the need for on-site paperwork to be later entered into the computer system.

The board did not take any action on the new smartphone application, as it was for presentation only.

Also on June 10, the board:

* Approved the adoption of the Navajo County Continuity of Operations Plan.

Emergency Services Director Mary Springer noted that the plan “provides guidance to the county to ensure the county can continue to perform its functions during times of emergencies or disasters.”

* Awarded a contract to IC Solutions for operation of the inmate communications system in the jail and juvenile detention facility.

The system will include phones, video and email. The costs of the system will be borne by the inmates using it.

* Heard an update on the activities of the County Supervisors Association.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 24, at the county complex in Holbrook.