The Marion County Commission at its Aug. 28 meeting continued discussing the pros and cons of having a full-time IT person on-site as opposed to calling only when problems arise or new equipment is installed.
Lloyd Davies, owner of Great Plains Computer & Networking in Marion, said a month prior that he does more of an “à la carte” technology support business with the various systems and departments.
“A month ago, I brought up a support contract, which was a three-day a week proposal with 24-hour, seven-day-a-week on-call service for $6,000 a month,” he said.
The other two options included hiring a full-time IT director that could be either him or someone else, Davies said, or an IT support consortium to include other counties and cities sharing the costs.
Commissioner Kent Becker said the topic should be kept on the front burne.
“Cyber security is an ever-growing concern, too,” he added.
Since that July meeting, Davies said he had some pressure by department heads who would like him to work for the county.
Commission chairman Randy Dallke introduced an idea at the July 31 meeting for Davies to work for the county full time on a six-month trial basis, and see if it would work into something.
Dallke asked Davies if he thinks a full-time IT person is needed.
“I think you do need one,” he said. “There are things we are supporting now, things that can be flushed out, plus more comprehensive things could be done by being more proactive.”
Dallke recognized three department heads at the meeting by pointing to Emma Tajchman, director, Planning and Zoning; Gayla Ratzlaff, director, Department on Aging; and Diedre Serene, director, County Health.
Dallke asked Davies how he helps those three departments with their offices off-site.
“All the time,” Davies said. “I had an emergency call to help a department this morning for access. Also, a lot of traffic, from a security standpoint is monitored.”
Davies said the health department has its own server, and there can be a little bit more to do.
“Planning and Zoning was moved to a new building and recabled (in the former Panzer Chiropractic office),” he added, “and there’s a lot of issues with Internet connectivity with jail because it’s a remote site.”
County Clerk Tina Spencer said all the department heads meet on a quarterly basis to talk about a lot of issues, and technology support has been brought up for the past two years.
“We have mentioned the idea of three days on retainer with 24-hour, seven days a week (on-call) support,” Spencer said. “When the question was who, we all said they want (Davies).
“We really need someone full time.”
Serene said she was confused about the three-day proposal.
“If Davies is on-site Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, what happens on a Monday or Friday with electronic health records or WIC and he is out of town or somewhere else?” she said.
It would mean cancelling appointments because no IT person was available to fix the problem, Serene said.
“I don’t know how anybody else feels, but how is three days any different than what we have now?” she said.
Commissioner Dianne Novak said, “I was wondering about that myself,” she said.
Ratzlaff added, “I think just in regard to serving the county, if we can’t serve them when they come in because the computer is down, then you have to send them away and then they have to come back.
“It doesn’t make good customer service.”
“If our system is down, it’s almost impossible to fulfill a request that comes in,” she said.
How would it work?
Novak asked Serene and others if their computer system is down, how do they get it back on line.
Serene said: “It depends. Sometimes (Davies) can come right away if he’s not out of town or if he’s not already busy.”
Novak asked what the average wait time would be.
“Typically it’s pretty quick,” Serene said. “But this issue isn’t just affecting our department.
“We (Tajchman, Ratzlaff and Serene) are all off site and we have common issues,” she said.
If another person were to come in as the IT, Davies said it could take six months to get that person up to speed.
Davies said that while he is flattered county employees want him for IT support, he said if a position is created it needs to be open for applications.
Goals for IT position
Davies said if the job was full time, a technology plan with overall targets would need to be completed.
“The technology plan hasn’t been updated since 2012,” he said.
Davies said he would also propose an online task list for multiple departments with target dates.
Becker said having a dedicated IT person is no different than in school districts or college.
Novak asked Davies what he makes annually doing the work he does now for the county.
“It’s roughly about $47,000 a year,” he said. “If I were to be full time for three days, the pay would be $72,000 with benefits.”
He estimated other IT directors annually make between $80,000 to $110,000.
Tajchman said if Davies was full time, it would give him the time to work on projects important to her office regarding mapping and other areas needing more sufficiency.
Spencer said Davies wouldn’t just be “running around” and taking care of problems.
“If someone is full time or with set times a week, we could map out some projects, what we want to accomplish, when to hook up somebody’s new computer, and have a more proactive approach on what needs to be accomplished,” she said.
Serene said that even the county’s website could be more up-to-date, efficient and customer friendly.
Becker said the commission needs to come up with a job description and guidelines regarding the IT position.
“I would also like to consider other people,” Novak said. “I don’t want to put (Davies) on contract full time, and then he moves away from other customers.”
Novak said if the commission decides the county’s needs aren’t met, they wouldn’t want Davies to have lost his other customers.
Dallke said the commission needs to develop the job description first, which could take 30 to 60 days.
For now, the commission will study Davies’ proposal and discuss it again at the Sept. 11 meeting.
In other business, the commissioners:
• approved having a Marion County high school student be involved in a work-study program learning more about county government.
• approved Doug Dick as a part-time corrections officer at the sheriff’s office.
• received a letter from Donna Kaiser, president of the Chat N Dine Club at the Marion County Park and Lake. An additional $650 was approved by the commission to finish the current project, paint outhouse doors, and buy materials.
• approved an agreement with BG Consultants for $4,500 on design for the drainage project on 30th Road between Nighthawk and Mustang.
• agreed by a 2-1 vote to pay for a damaged sprinkler head caused by a motor grader at a cost of $38. Novak said the landowner installed the system on county road right-of-way and it should be at his own risk. Dallke acknowledged Novak’s point, but he and Becker voted in favor of paying.
• heard from Tajchman that the comprehensive plan is moving forward and the next step will be a survey for public input.
• provided input regarding Dan Drive at the county lake and problems associated with part of the road being public and the other being private. Novak said she wants to address some of the issues and form a plan for the future pertaining to zoning regulations at the lake.
• heard from Lester Kaiser, fire chief in Lincolnville, who asked about funding for the radio upgrade project. Kaiser and other fire chiefs at the meeting asked why the entire project couldn’t be funded with the significant amount of money in cash reserves. Dallke directed Spencer to put together the list of the projects pending and how the almost $16 million is earmarked.
• heard from Mike Beneke, farmer and rancher, that instead of arguing about overtime for the EMS department, commissioners should be focusing on the progress that the department has made.
• listened to Beneke’s objection to comments made by the new lake superintendent regarding the condition of the lake and grounds. Beneke said he will support the new superintendent when he sees positive improvements.
• heard from Yvonne Cushenbery who inquired about 330th Road and if any patching would be done before winter. The commission said something would be done, but gave no specifics.
• approved Gavin Shields’ cleanup in Lincolnville based on the letter outlining specific violations.
Dallke thanked Shields for the work he did cleaning up the old cars, trailers and other junk items.
• requested that sanitary codes be updated. Tajchman said the last time the codes were updated was in 1994.
“It is expensive, but needs to be explored,” she said.