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Transparency at the touch of a button

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E’town councilman pitches Web site that would track government spending

By Marty Finley

By MARTY FINLEY

mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — A recent action by Louisville Metro Government to promote more openness in local government has ignited  interest in Elizabethtown.

City Councilman Steve Atcher presented this week to city council a proposal to establish a Web site which would track government spending and decisions in a timely manner. A similar concept was unanimously passed in Louisville recently.

Atcher said the city has been open with its decisions in the past, but the site could establish more credibility in the community and show residents the city has nothing to hide. Atcher said people expect more transparency in the wake of recent developments in the federal government, including massive bailouts to failing banks.

“It builds trust,” he said.

He said it also would provide convenience to city residents who may want to know specific information without  the delay of requesting it directly from the city.

Atcher said the information provided should include government expenditures in full detail, including the amount of money spent, the item or project the money was expended for, the agency involved in spending the money, and the source and recipients of the funding.

In addition, financial statements, annual budgets, laws, rules and government decisions should be logged on the site, with all information made available within five working days of the action, he said.

Atcher said he also would like to see links added for contracts, grants, reimbursements or other documents residents may like to see. He also recommended placing the salaries of all city officials — appointed, hired and elected — on the Web site, as well as the salaries, budgets, expenditures, financial statements and meeting minutes of all city agencies receiving taxpayer dollars.

Mayor David Willmoth said it was something worth considering for the future, but additional research would be necessary to determine the online capacity needed to manage such a large amount of information.

Louisville’s site is expected to cost about $46,000, but Atcher said discussion with Network Administrator Tommy Hill revealed it would likely cost much less for Elizabethtown to do something similar. Atcher said he also learned from Hill that a server would probably be necessary to maintain the data. He also recommended  that all quarterly financial updates and budget changes be documented.

It’s not the first time an all-inclusive Web site has been mentioned in city government, as former candidate Matt Wyatt  lobbied for support for a site during last year’s race.

Atcher asked the council to consider approving a study in the near future to determine what variables would be involved in establishing the site.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.