In response to growing citizen complaints about quality of life issues, the City of Sherman, Texas, launched a cross-functional ‘Neighborhood Refresh Initiative”
Participating departments had no easy way to share information or communicate, and the City did not want to embark on a costly, high-maintenance IT solution built from scratch
In just two weeks, Sherman implemented BuildingBlocks to bring together real-time data on code cases, citizen complaints, and more, enabling better coordination and streamlining reporting to City leadership
The City of Sherman, TX, is no stranger to rebellion. Named in honor of General Sidney Sherman, a hero of the 1835 Texas Revolution, the North Texas city of 38,000 people rejects a “business as usual” approach. During the City’s budget discussions for FY 2017, Council members expressed frustration with property deterioration and declining community standards. Constituents were increasingly complaining about visible refuse, junk vehicles, neglected properties, and a handful of other issues that cut across several departments, including Code Enforcement, Police, Solid Waste, Animal Control, and Substandard Structures. Instead of continuing to respond to complaints in a siloed manner, the City convened a cross-functional committee to spearhead the “Neighborhood Refresh Initiative” under the leadership of Nate Strauch, Manager of Community Services.
Despite the political will and urgency, Strauch knew that the program’s success would be challenged by the fact that the participating departments could not easily communicate or share information. Each used its own system, and there was no easy way to consolidate the information. Most of these databases had little in the way of reporting functionality, so the committee was unable to look holistically across the City to identify concentrations of complaints, share progress with Councilmembers & constituents, and anticipate potential issues. Strauch proposed a “clearinghouse” of department data to bring this information together into one place, but the effort would have required significant IT resources to aggregate and clean the data. Once built, it would still require a database expert to run the analysis his committee needed to make informed decisions, and the information would have to be regularly imported and re-run to remain current, further taxing the City’s IT team.
Instead of building the system from scratch in-house, Strauch and the committee of department heads elected to utilize Tolemi’s BuildingBlocks. Fully deployed in just two weeks, the application drew valuable data from City of Sherman departments, the County, and even State & Federal sources. Tolemi’s data integration team was able to automate the process of integrating and consolidating data from the City’s oldest, closed systems into one centralized data hub, releasing the City’s GIS team from the burden of cleaning and maintaining the data on a continuous basis.
On the front end, Strauch and the committee now have their mission control, a map-based analytical tool that houses all the data relevant to Neighborhood Refresh in a single place. As a result, they can look up any property in seconds and instantly understand which departments have fielded complaints, who has responded, and what issues still need attention—in real-time.
Furthermore, Strauch has been able to quickly draw analyses and reports demonstrating the impact of the multi-department effort to Council and the public. In his first appearance before Council after the Initiative’s launch, Strauch used BuildingBlocks to show that the City had stepped up its proactive enforcement efforts in predefined priority areas, more than doubling the monthly rate of new cases identified.
“Everyone’s on the same page,” said Strauch. “No more bouncing between systems and wrestling with messy data. We get our answer in seconds, not days.”