Dog tags, culverts, road access permits and planning applications can all be attained online through Bonfield’s website, and the township’s chief administrative officer, Peter Johnston, strives to continue providing—and improving—digital services to residents.
“We’ve been in the forefront in moving things to the digital world,” Johnston explained, adding he is particularly impressed that residents can now pay their property taxes online via debit, credit, or e-mail transfer.
“I’m amazed by how far we’ve come on the municipal level,” Johnston said, noting that many larger municipalities do not offer similar services, and offering the ability to pay taxes online is especially appreciated by those who have cottages or recreational property in the area and may not live there year-round.
The municipality continues to “upgrade our website, making more services available,” Johnston said, adding that the site is practically unrecognizable from their previous site, which has been replaced over the past year.
“I’m proud of my team,” he said, for “making it easier for residents to access services every time we make a tweak on our website.”
Much of these improvements have been made possible by a provincial grant. The Municipal Modernization Program offered funding to small and rural communities throughout Ontario to help modernize and improve they way they provide services to their communities.
In 2019, when the initial funding rolled out to 405 municipalities, Bonfield received $371,000.
The funding helps to identify what technology is being used in Bonfield across all departments, the gaps that could be filled in that digital space, and “what digital technology is available in the marketplace” that could be implemented into “our organization to make it more efficient.”
Another stream of funding worth “about $45,000” is becoming available that allows for that implementation. That deadline is October 19, and Johnston is using the findings of the municipal study to put together an application.
To receive funds to purchase and implement new digital technology, the municipality must demonstrate that these additions will not only improve service to residents but will also reduce municipal costs.
Johnston acknowledges there are some challenges to offering more service digitally. Connectivity remains an issue, particularly in rural townships, but he remains hopeful that the Federal government’s recent funding for increasing broadband throughout rural communities will remedy those roadblocks.
Besides offering more online services, the municipality has “digitized a lot of our files,” and Johnston anticipates a time—once the province allows for it—when “we’ll be able to store everything in digital form.”
“An analysis of our current structure” has been ongoing since January, Johnston said, with the overall goal to provide “better service delivery, be more efficient, and save costs.”
The result will “dramatically improve service delivery for our residents,” Johnston said.
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca