The City of Bloomington launched a new public records request management software aiming to provide easier access to public records May 8.
According to a City of Bloomington press release, the new system, NextRequest, is designed to improve transparency, efficiency and consistency when responding to public records requests. The release states NextRequest is an addition to Mayor John Hamilton’s administration’s B-Clear data portal.
B-Clear is a data portal where the city of Bloomington can share data and public records online according to a Herald-Times article. The portal includes data sets for topics such as housing and neighborhoods, city budget and finance, planning and zoning and more.
Assistant City Attorney Heather Lacy said she and City Director of Innovation Devta Kidd started to discuss developing a new public record requesting system because the previous system was more challenging for people to use.
“On our website we had a form that a requester could fill out, but it wasn’t fillable on the website, so that was a little challenging for people, right?” Lacy said. “You had to download the form and be able to modify it in adobe pro and if they didn’t have that it had to be handwritten and scanned back into the system or mailed back to us.”
Lacy said she and Kidd created a review process where they reviewed different factors involved in making a public record request and began meeting with software companies to see what system would work best for the city. Lacy said they were considering implementing a system capable of handling public records with the possibility of adding police report requests in the future and they found that NextRequest has that capacity.
“The city gets somewhere around 200 to 300 records requests a year, but the Bloomington Police Department gets thousands of requests,” Lacy said. “The process presently for police records is separate and through the police department, but at some point in the future we may have discussions of if merging the request systems would be efficient.”
Lacy said since the launch of the new system, any records requests which had previously been made and not addressed through the old system have been transferred to the new software. The new system allows requesters to view other requests made by the public and new requests can be made entirely through the website available here.