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How Orange County Sanitation District embraced technology to modernize processes and save staff time

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With a Board consisting of 25 Board members (with 25 Alternate Directors) from 25 member agencies, Orange County Sanitation District (OC San) faced daunting processes for both meeting agenda preparation and public records request fulfillment. By embracing new technology and optimizing use of digital solutions, the California special district was able to modernize processes to boost efficiency and better serve the public.

“Granicus has definitely expanded our accessibility to the public which, in my opinion, is a very good thing!”
Tina Knapp, Assistant Clerk of the Board, Orange County Sanitation District


  • 50 Agenda packets annually (approximately)
  • 90 min Agenda packet creation, down from 12 hours
  • >10 min Records Request processing, reduced from 2 hours
  • 50-member Board of Directors (25 Directors & 25 Alternate Directors)
Must have Granicus Solutions

Outdated Processes and Long Hours

For OC San, outdated processes made for a tedious, time-consuming daily routine when it came to Board meeting agenda planning and public records request processing.

“It’s heavy lifting finalizing those agenda reports and packets,” said Tina Knapp, OC San’s Assistant Clerk of the Board. “It was two full days, for the most part, of combining agenda reports into a packet because we have very large agenda packets. And then there was printing the agenda packet… So it was between 9 and 20 hours’ worth of staff time. And it was labor intensive.”

While the extensive production time from gathering materials to finalizing agenda packages may seem familiar to any government organization, for OC San the make-up of their Board added complexity.

OC San provides wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal services for approximately 2.6 million Orange County residents at two wastewater treatment facilities. As a result of the coverage area, the Board of Directors consists of 50 Board members (25 Directors and 25 Alternates) appointed from 20 cities, two sanitary districts, two water districts, and one representative from the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Creating between 45 and 50 agendas annually, by Knapp’s account, put continued strain on staff.

“We would have large Board agenda packets that we would print, sometimes several thousands of pages, 25 of them, packets for staff, and extra packets for the public and to have on site.” Knapp said. “It meant reams and reams of paper, usually just going into the recycling bin at the conclusion of a meeting.”

It became clear to the organization that a move to a digital form of organization was needed. A workplan created in 2019 started to move toward a digital approach, Knapp said. But then, as with many other government organizations, the COVID pandemic prompted a need to accelerate that shift.


A Suite of Tools Working Together

The unique size of the OC San Board made finding tools to fit the organization’s needs a challenge, according to Knapp.

“It was finding a specialized kind of functionality for us trying to develop how were we going to make this work,” she said. “Having Alternate Directors, I’m going to bet that is still relatively unheard of for a gov-tech company to deal with. And it was difficult. It was creative thinking of how to make that work in the system — pushing limitations, looking for a company that would push its boundaries. It makes everyone better.”

That dedication to agility, flexibility, and diversity of tools to meet its unique goals led OC San to assemble a suite of digital solutions, now considered part of the Government Experience Cloud. Over time, OC San implemented govMeetings for agenda creation management and live streaming, GovQA and govRecords for public records requests and records management, govDelivery for e-notifications, and govAccess for the organization’s website that houses it all.

“No two agencies are the same,” Knapp said regarding the relationship with onboarding the various tools. “We’re not all built the same. So agility during the onboarding process is a good skill to have, and I think it was done well.”

While the approach to a digital meeting agenda management tool was a new step, GovQA already existed in the organization. However, Knapp recalled, it was not being fully utilized. When management of public records requests transferred to the Board Services team, they were able to adapt the program to their needs. The efforts were made easier, she added, by the relationship with implementation and support team members who worked closely to deliver services that met OC San’s needs.

“I’m not going to try to candy coat it for anybody: The onboarding of an agenda management system is something to be managed, and to go in thinking it’s going to be perfect would be foolish,” she said. “It’s a learning curve. But now, 2 ½ years in, I cannot imagine not having it. After the hours we put in, I really feel like we’re partners with Granicus… We’re in this together. We continue to address issues that come up as a team, and that includes our Granicus representatives.”


Efficiencies and New Opportunities

The move to digital solutions for both meetings and public records requests not only helped OC San reduce time and stress in preparing for meetings, it also provided new ways to give access to members of their community.

“I think that what we’ve all been through the last few years, it’s kind of changed how you give access to your government, to the people,” said Knapp. “We’ve proven that we can stream our meetings to the public. So as we transitioned out of the pandemic and our meetings were back in person, we’ve continued to make it so people don’t have to drive all the way in to participate in a meeting. You can remote in and we’re going to continue to give you access through eComment, and you can watch our meetings on our website.”

Over the last three years, the addition of livestreaming options and eComment has resulted in more general public feedback with more public comments and a growing, if still small, number of general public members attending meetings.

“We consistently have people we can identify attending the meetings online and many more are watching the stream,” she said. “If we were in-person only, I don’t believe they would be attending. So we feel that having streaming capabilities is broadening our reach.”

Creation of agenda packets that would previously take anywhere from eight to 12 hours, Knapp said, now take 90 minutes to produce.

“It has made the writing of agenda reports more efficient via the ability to collaborate in one central location and provide a consistent approval sequencing mechanism,” she said. “I don’t think that the time it takes to write agenda reports has changed, but it has made the process easier.”

Records requests from the public have also been made more efficient, with normal requests (which Knapp identifies as those not requiring extensive research to fulfill) can be responded to in less than 10 minutes. With approximately 400 public records requests processed and responded to in the last year, the change is dramatic.

“I can’t imagine walking back some of that technology with the public records requests,” she said. “It may be a small number compared to some agencies, so it’s relative. But it makes it so much easier.”

With govRecords being used to file and track a variety of other important public documents, including ethics training and sexual harassment prevention training for staff and elected officials on the Board, OC San is finding new ways to use the digital tools at their disposal to solve the problems they face now and in the future. Knapp added that the relationship with Granicus is the basis for that development.

“Working in government, you care, right?” she asked. “You care about what you’re doing. It matters. I have yet to come across anybody at Granicus that isn’t kind, smart, knowledgeable, and willing to help.”