Local Governments Lack Modern Technologies, Affecting Efficiency, Budgets and Economic Development

Feb 11, 2015

Kyle Thauvette, West Homestead Borough manager, in what used to be the break room. The room is now used to store paper files, many of them used on a daily basis. A University of Pittsburgh class is helping the borough digitize some of its records.
Credit Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

When Ian McMeans became Homestead’s borough manager three years ago the borough had only one email address and the secretary printed the messages and hand delivered them to everyone. “That stopped very shortly thereafter,” said McMeans. Then McMeans built a website. But progress has been slow. The borough is still entirely paper-run. 

McMeans recently toured a group of mostly-graduate government and administration students from the University of Pittsburgh around the borough. He took them to the site of a fire that still hasn’t been cleaned up. The blaze left behind a pile of charred debris spilling out on the sidewalk between still-standing buildings.

The students are helping Homestead go digital and McMeans said the incident was a good reminder for why their efforts matter.  

“During the fire, we had to come back look through our paper records for the properties to see how many of the apartment units were occupied, how many people were living there, who the property owners were, or what their contact phone numbers were,” McMeans said.  

Read a full version of this report at the website of Keystone Crossroads, a statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities.