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Former legislator wired on idea of state Web site

As a partner in Grand River Construction, Glenwood Springs resident Gregg Rippy has paved his share of roads.As a state lawmaker, he worked along with the rest of the state legislature to try to maintain and expand Colorado’s highways.These days he is focusing on the information superhighway, as interim chief executive officer of the State Internet Portal Authority.After leaving the legislature at the end of 2004, following a failed bid for Congress, Rippy agreed to temporarily lead a state effort to create a single Colorado Web site to let people access government services at the state and local levels.That job goes on a few months longer than Rippy had planned, as the authority board closes in on a decision on a new CEO. As Rippy looks toward moving on, he is excited about an effort that started with a bill he sponsored in the House of Representatives to create the authority.The authority’s goal is to provide a central, highly secure point of Internet access for doing business with state and local government in Colorado, Rippy said. Thirty-eight states have such a Web site. Colorado’s official Web site, http://www.colorado.gov, gives the appearance of being a portal, but actually consists of more than 200 Web sites with links, Rippy said.The portal that the authority is looking to create seeks to provide one-stop shopping for citizens and companies doing business with governments in Colorado. People could enter their addresses and find out where they should go for a desired governmental service. They also could obtain many local and state services on-line via the Web site. Those services would include everything from dog licenses to driver’s licenses, and business registrations to park reservations.”People find it very convenient to be able to have access to those types of things they want to do with government on a 24-hour basis,” Rippy said. “This is really the building block to move forward into e-government for Colorado.”He said a goal is to make the Web site “very searchable, because we find that’s what citizens expect.”Crucial to the portal effort is involving county and municipal governments from the outset, and listening to what they have to say, Rippy said.He is finding that such communication is important at a time when local governments are leery of the state, which has had a history of imposing unfunded mandates on them.”When you go out and say ‘I’m from the state, trust me,’ you don’t get all that warm a reception from cities and counties,” Rippy said.He noted that the public still will be able to go to city and county Web sites to do business with them.However, Rippy believes the portal concept can provide a higher level of security than many government sites in the state are able to provide. Rippy said it’s frightening how many people attempt to break into the state Web site now. “It only takes one time of having that chink in your armor that you’re going to expose a lot of private information,” he said. “Your information should be just as secure in the town of Hayden as it is in the state of Colorado as it is on the federal Web site.”Having a single, highly secure Web site is more efficient and can help communities without the resources to build such a site themselves.”It’s the concept of build once, use many,” Rippy said.Rippy has long had an interest in computers and information technology. He said he can’t write code, but understands how computers can benefit business and government, reducing operational costs. While in the legislature, he served on the state’s Information Management Commission, which oversaw all the state’s information technology projects.Rippy’s only coworker on the authority is executive assistant Angie Onorofskie, a Glenwood Springs resident who served on his congressional campaign.The state received $6.5 million in federal funds for the portal project, but the authority may not need to use it all. It is looking at ways to create revenue from some of its services, such as possibly charging banks and car dealers a nominal fee to enable them to print out temporary license tags for car buyers.The authority has hired Colorado Interactive, a subsidiary of NIC USA, as the contractor for the portal project. Rippy said NIC, of Olathe, Kan., runs 18 other state portals.Rippy has all kinds of ideas for what the site might be able to accomplish, from helping provide telehealth programs to improve rural health care, to playing a part in using tobacco tax revenues to deliver anti-smoking programs to children.It will be left for someone else to pursue such programs, at least as the authority’s CEO.”Some people say I should stick around so I can enjoy the fruits of my labor, but it’s OK to move on, too,” Rippy said.He might be interested in joining the authority board in the future, he said.For now, Rippy is serving as a board trustee at Western State College in Gunnison, and adjusting to private life back in Glenwood Springs after serving in the legislature and beginning to wrap up his work with the portal authority.”I’m happy to be back here and doing paving,” he said.He’s also not ruling out running for office again someday, or again playing some other role in government.”I’m not closing any doors but I’m really enjoying spending more time in Glenwood,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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