County continues to debate IT position

Marion County commissioners met Monday, Oct. 2, for a work session regarding tech support and the possibility of bringing someone on full-time as the county’s information technology or IT person.

Also present at the discussion was Lloyd Davies, owner of Great Plains Computers in Marion, who handed out what he sees as boundaries or perimeters related to a full-time IT position.

Commissioner Kent Becker, in reviewing the information, said he was concerned about Davies’ time and patch management.

Becker said he didn’t want to see a job description addressing only “fixing things” when they break, but rather would want more continuity, less down time and more efficiency for departments.

Randy Dallke, commission chair, offered Davies a scenario in which the entire system goes down. Davies said that happened last Thursday at 3 p.m.

“I had just gone to lunch when the treasurer called first,” he said. “I did diagnostics right away and discovered it was an outage be­tween here, Florence and Hillsboro.”

The situation was corrected in about 30 minutes and everything was back up, Davies said.

Becker also asked about a situation involving a server going down and what the response time would be.

“I know Lloyd is good about getting here quickly,” he said, but asked if it would it be more timely in full-time capacity.

Another viewpoint

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she wanted to look at another view related to a full-time IT person.

She said year-to-date payments for Davies’ services was $26,289 through Septem­ber, with some days having only one call.

“Some things I haven’t billed,” Davies said. “These aren’t all trouble calls because some calls aren’t from the county, but rather from the exchange server, Eagle Communications.”

Novak said based on the calls and payments thus far, she wondered if the county is getting better at this.

Davies assured her there is a lot going on, and some of the invoices for equipment and other work haven’t been billed yet.

Novak compared on proposal committed with other salaries in the state of Kansas, which ranged from $80,000 to $110,000 depending on experience.

Novak said McPherson County has a much larger population than here in Marion County.

“In your documentation, you say you are servicing about 98 devices—68 PCs and 30 laptops,” she said.

“In McPherson County with the larger population, Jeff Butler told me he is servicing 180 devices, 16 servers, 10-12 firewalls, networks, cables, switches and other,” she said. “He is paid $60,000 a year.”

Salary differences

The county also did a salary study around the state with servers, firewalls and the overall job. Butler told her a county our size should pay no more than $45,000 to $50,000.

Davies’ proposal asks for $6,000 a month or $72,000 for full time.

“I also spoke with Com­missioner Keith Asher in Geary County, with a population about three times our size, and they do pay about $70,000 a year,” Novak said.

Davies said he went to a state government site that lists county IT director positions. “That’s where those numbers came from,” he said.

Novak apologized to Davies for discussing the fundamentals of the IT job.

“I didn’t think you would be right here at the start of our discussion,” she said.

Davies said: “It doesn’t bother me. If you don’t feel comfortable with me being here, I will understand.”

Novak, and the other commissioners, assured Davies they had no problem with his presence because it’s a public meeting.

“I do think we need to put this out for bids, and compare prices,” she said.

‘A bunch of silos’

County Clerk Tina Spencer said, “With the way we are doing our support in the county, we are all a bunch of silos—we are not a group, which is why we need to look at a different model.”

Davies said he believes there probably would be more of a structure if its full time and scheduled.

Davies said he met former County Clerk Carol Maggard in 1998 and has worked on that contract ever since.

“That first year, I had 10 hours,” he said.

Novak asked him if had he been replacing cable all those years.

“We didn’t need to,” Davies said. “We’ve added quite a bit. In 1999, we ran 174 cable runs and probably 250 cable runs in this building.”

In addition, Davies said patch panels were replaced and wiring downstairs was a major undertaking.

Dallke said that everybody has their own idea about what an IT position is.

Novak said: “I am all for an IT, and putting someone in-house. I am worried about the cost when compared to other counties.”

Spencer said she would also talk with other county clerks about the position and salaries.

Becker added: “We need to see what’s available and the costs. We need to maximize value without giving up quality”

Spencer said she would do her best to comply with the commissions request to come up with comparisons, job description and readying to advertise for bids on a full-time IT.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

• heard from Novak about the 800 MHz radios that will replace the 400 MHz ones currently in use. The majority of emergency personnel in the county believe it’s a better deal, but it’s expensive.

The radio upgrade started with the Kansas Highway Patrol and the state legislature. In order to communicate with KHP, the county sheriff’s office is having to upgrade its system as well as 911 dispatch.

The Kansas Highway Patrol is expected to use the 800 MHz radios sometime this year. One problem when that happens, according to previous information, is that cities could lose the ability to communicate within the county.

Novak’s idea is to alleviate some of the cost that fire departments, EMS service and other county emergency personnel will have after ordering the new equipment.

• heard Becker say he wanted to announce how happy he was about the 330th project and how, when the bids came in last week, the total cost was well below the engineer estimates.

The bid was awarded to Bob Bergkamp for a dry cement base with three to four inches of asphalt at $2,045,878 with the engineer’s estimate at $3,121,200 for three inch option using six percent cement.

Ditch grading also was awarded to Bob Bergkamp for $118,472, for a total project cost of $2,164,350.

“It appears this was a great year to do this project,” Becker said. “It has allowed us some flexibility or the ability to do another

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