eGOVERNMENT FOR MISSOULA, MONTANA
Tyler Gernant is being recognized for launching innovative solutions that allow citizens to avoid waiting in long lines through the use of online forms, receiving bills via email and text messages, and paying for services online or via a mobile device. Since his election three years ago, Gernant has been on a mission to make life easier and more efficient for his constituents and save county funds at the same time.
2019 was a stellar year for Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant. Missoula has been working with eGovernment services provider Montana Interactive (MI) since 2011, but with Gernant at the helm of the office that manages departments including motor vehicles, taxes, real estate, and vital statistics, the county has stepped up its game.
In December, Missoula became the first county in Montana to offer an online motor vehicle titling service, which allows residents who purchase a vehicle from a dealership or finance it through a bank to get their title and license plates by mail. “They don’t have to come into our office,” Gernant says. “They don’t have to find parking, sit and wait for a few hours, or make an appointment.”
Last summer, citizens wanting to register a vehicle or complete title work were waiting for hours, sometimes having to come back days later. On average, at any given time, there were about 30 people waiting in line, according to the Missoulian. On July 1, during the busiest time of year for vehicle registration, there were about 90 people waiting to register. Gernant heard numerous complaints about the five-hour wait times. “That’s not acceptable in our world,” says Gernant, adding that his office is understaffed, but there’s not enough office space to add more employees. “We’ve got literally as many people as we have workstations available right now,” he told the Missoulian.
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
CLERK AND TREASURER
While Gernant was looking for a solution, he attended the Montana’s Annual Treasurers Convention in September, during which he saw a demonstration of MI’s AccessGov platform. He knew immediately that it was the answer to the county’s problems. MI quickly spun up a Missoula County portal – during the convention – and visited Gernant’s office later that same month to provide his staff with an in-depth look at the platform and training.
Citizens can complete forms through AccessGov as a guest or by logging in. Creating a login allows users to save progress and return to incomplete submissions. County employees control citizen experience through configuration, not code, improving usability and reliability. Whether filing for a vehicle title and registration, requesting tax exemptions, or applying for a license to operate a firework stand, Missoula County residents and businesses expect government services to be efficient and intuitive, just like services from leading private-sector organizations. AccessGov fits the bill. Non-technical employees use one interface to build and publish the custom, interactive online forms, content pages, and web applications, which automatically adapt to desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.
Although AccessGov is integrated with a payment portal that allows the county to accept credit and debit cards and electronic checks (eChecks), Gernant chose to use another MI service called Prompt Pay to send vehicle title and registration bills to customers via email or SMS text message. After county employees review each submission for accuracy, they invoice the customer. Gernant is a huge fan of Prompt Pay and says he is “redesigning our office workflow to utilize it more. I can literally create an invoice in 30 seconds, which means we can do it while on the phone with a customer.”
The Clerk and Treasurer’s office started using Prompt Pay in November to accept electronic payments, modernize the citizen’s experience while interacting with government employees, and reduce the workload of county clerks.
MI provided Missoula County with both AccessGov and Prompt Pay at no cost through its unique flexible-funding model, which allows for the development, ongoing support, and maintenance of eGovernment solutions.
If a citizen must make a trip to the county office, Gernant helped launch another online system through which customers can book appointments, eliminating a long wait.
Next on Gernant’s list: Building more AccessGov forms, such as requests for birth and death records, and allowing citizens to pay bills via PayPal through Prompt Pay. MI is helping Missoula County add the Pay Pal option by the end of January.
Tyler Gernant’s efforts have improved citizen engagement and satisfaction. It’s clear that word is spreading about the benefits of the county’s new online vehicle titling service. Citizens have submitted more than 5% of the county’s average winter monthly registrations through AccessGov within the service’s first four weeks. Clerks have sent more than 185 bills to citizens using Prompt Pay, processing nearly $75,000 since November.
Gernant said wait times for those who do come into the office have been reduced, too. With fewer in-person transactions, employees have more time to process paperwork while citizens choose from the nearly 300 Montana license plates. Drivers who register in person receive license plates that day, but it only takes a few days for those who complete the online process to get plates through the mail.
Filing online also saves citizens from making multiple trips to the county office if there are paperwork issues. Now, the county can email documents that can be signed electronically, Gernant said.
During the summer, Montanans tend to buy more ATVs, boats, trailers and cars, so Gernant is looking forward to the efficiencies created by implementing the new service.