City of Lawrence staff working to implement new system for city code; city clerk says it’ll make the code easier to navigate

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Lawrence City Clerk Sherri Riedemann speaks during the Lawrence City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023.

City of Lawrence staff is in the process of implementing new software for managing the city’s code, with changes coming soon that will make it much more accessible for members of the public to navigate the regulations.

Lawrence leaders heard an update about progress with implementing the system at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission meeting, and City Clerk Sherri Riedemann said it would be a valuable tool once it’s active.

“We’re really excited about this, because it’s really going to make the city code a lot more accessible than it is currently,” Riedemann told the Lawrence City Commission Tuesday evening. “It’s there and it’s on our website and it’s great, but you really don’t have good search functionality.”

Riedemann said the new system should be ready to adopt by spring of 2024, and it’ll fix that issue of search functionality. That’s because it will have features like linking newly adopted code directly to the affected section, she said. The new system, hosted online by Municode CivicPlus, also keeps a permanent archive each time the code is updated so it’s easier to see how it’s evolved over time.

Navigating the code will also be less of a chore, Riedemann said. The system will allow searches by keyword or phrase.

There are “hundreds or thousands” of other cities already using this system, City Manager Craig Owens told commissioners Tuesday, and he said it’s good Lawrence is catching up to the rest of the pack.

“I’d say we’re an outlier, especially for our size, that we don’t have this search capability,” Owens said. “I’m very excited about this. I know not everybody gets excited about code stuff, but for those that do pay attention to what we do here and the laws that we have that affect everybody and that want to do that research and want to self-serve and engage in their government, this is going to be so much better than what we have.”

Riedemann also told commissioners about a second project, this one focused on implementing a new internal documentation system for the city. The cloud-based storage system will address the city’s long-term needs as well as some security concerns with the existing system, she said.

In terms of security, Riedemann said the system will have multi-factor authentication and the ability to redact images or text to protect sensitive data from unauthorized users, such as in open records requests.

The system will integrate with a couple of other applications the city uses so documents can be created and routed for review and signatures immediately. Under the current system, that part of the process often takes place using physical copies, Riedemann said. The system also has advanced search capabilities, meaning the city will be able to more quickly respond to internal and external records requests.

Riedemann said after the new system is implemented, there will eventually be a public access portal where residents can access a wider range of city documents.

The document management system will eventually be used by every department citywide, but Riedemann told commissioners that for now the city’s working on getting it implemented just for a handful of them — the municipal court, City Clerk’s Office and a division of Planning and Development Services.

“This is a great move forward,” Lawrence Mayor Lisa Larsen said. “As we continue to do these types of projects and bring them on board, it’s just going to (give more) ability to be more transparent in the community because they’ll be able to search, versus having to hunt and peck; there’s a lot of that going on right now.”


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