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Swampscott looks to permit easier access

Item Photo By OWEN O’ROURKE

Michele Karas, information technology director, works in the Data Center at Swampscott Town Hall, the nerve center of all the computer technology in the building.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The town’s information technology director has been working on updates to the town website, which will allow residents to stay home, rather than make the trip to Town Hall for documents and forms.

Michele Karas, who began working as the information technology director in June, has, since then been working on making the town’s website a one-stop shopping center for residents, she said.

“We should be a 24/7 operation,” Karas said of the Town Hall. “People who live here might work in Boston. They can’t just come here and get here on time. Our hours are only until 4:30 p.m.”

Karas said having a 24/7 online portal for residents would allow them to pay their real estate and motor vehicle bills, among others, on that site. Already, residents are able to pay their parking tickets online.

Over the past month, vital record documents — birth, marriage and death certificates — have been made available online. Dog licensing is now accessible on the site as well, which is handled by Town Clerk Susan Duplin, Karas said.

Karas said another goal is saving paper from emailing information rather than mailing it out.

For those who opt to use the dog licensing system on the town website, residents can process their payment for the license online. Credit cards and e-checks are accepted, and a receipt will be emailed after payment is received. The dog tag would then be mailed out, Karas said.

That same payment process would be used for birth, marriage and death certificates, Karas said.

“It’s part of the whole overall plan to redo the website and make it more user friendly,” Karas said.

Karas said people who already moor their boats in town will be able to renew those moorings online by February.

People have also been able to go online and get their public beach stickers, as that component went live this past summer, Karas said.

A major project for Karas has been to complete a major upgrade for the financial system. As part of that upgrade, she said she will be working with the new building inspector to get permits online.

Karas said a financial update, Tyler Content Manager, has allowed her to make a Portable Document Format (PDF) file of every bill generated by the Town Hall. Those who have issues with bills can call Karas or another town employee, who could then pull up the bill and resolve the issue over the phone. If someone lost a bill, the PDF could be emailed, Karas said.

With the new financial system, town employees will be able to go into an employee self-service area and see what their vacation and sick time looks like.

Employees will also be able to put in requests for that time. W2’s and pay stubs could also be emailed to employees rather than mailed to them, Karas said.

Although she’s only been in her position for six months, Karas said she loves the job. She said she worked in Winthrop for 19 years and likes the small town feel.

“I’m here to stay,” Karas said. “I really like it.”

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said hiring a full-time information technology director was important. He said the town is more automated with being able to license dogs online and with the programs the public can utilize for payments. He reiterated that anything the town can do to have residents stay at home and obtain information on the website instead of coming into the Town Hall is a goal.


 

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]

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