Utah counties link up to share technology and keep costs under control

County trusts. A cooperative trust formed more than 20 years ago has helped 12 Utah counties advance technologically.

A National Association of Counties survey found that the larger a county's population is, the more advanced its technology use tends to be.

In 1978, officials in eight small and midsize Utah counties formed the Multicounty Computer Trust.

'They wanted to automate, but they found that there weren't any software programs they could go buy for county government,' said Alan Spriggs, the trust's president and recorder of Summit County. 'And the cost at that time of developing software programs for each individual county would have been considerable.'

Building apps. The trust, which now has 12 member counties, works with software developer Progressive Solutions Inc. of Salt Lake City. The group first developed core applications such as financial and payroll systems. It has since created geographic information system and law enforcement applications.

The trust's board of trustees is composed of one representative from each county, typically an elected official or information technology professional. The board decides which programs to commission and selects annual officers.

Projects are funded from annual dues and members' budgets.

Progressive Solutions meets with system users during the design phase.

'If 10 counties wanted a recorder system, the recorders would act as the committee. When the software was developed, it would cost one-tenth of what it would on their own,' Spriggs said.

Go to rewrite. The company works with the group to enhance and upgrade apps and develop new ones. Trust counties can share the costs of rewrites to systems affected by legislation.

Any member county can opt out of a project but buy in later. It also works in the opposite direction. Summit County, for instance, financed and built a street indexing system the trust could buy into, Spriggs said.

Systems also can be flexible. The trust created a basic GIS, and counties can add data or enhancements. For optical recognition, the trust created an interface and let each county choose its own software and vendor.

The trust doesn't usually embark on a large project without unanimous consensus, Spriggs said.

'Claire E. House

Internet: [email protected]


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