Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Council gets QT on IT at meeting

April 19, 2007

An investment made by the Baldwin City Council last year has paid off through improvements in technology.

Sean Hare, Information Technology director for the city, gave a presentation at Monday's meeting regarding changes and upgrades made to the city's computer system and network. That was prompted by a request several weeks ago by Council President Amy Cleavinger.

"I had asked for a report from Sean so that we could see how we have improved in this area since bringing a full-time IT person on board," said Cleavinger. "It was a tough call. There were some who had the mindset that we were doing fine going the consultant route and just calling someone in when we had trouble.

"The problem with that is that we were expecting our city administrator and city clerk to be IT experts and to keep the city up to speed in terms of technology," she said. "This was not what we were paying them to do and certainly not what they are trained to do. And, as Sean said, we were only reacting to problems and not actually seeking out long term solutions, much less improvements."

Hare, who has been IT director for about a year, explained to the council what he found upon arrival and what's been done to make the system better.

"Where we were when I took over was very decentralized," said Hare. "We had multiple points of failure. We had some insecure network strategies. We were under utilizing assets. We had an inefficient network.

"Everything was reactionary," he said. "That's not surprising when you don't have an IT department."

But, Hare didn't dwell on what had been.

"What I want to stress is what we've done," he said.

Among those items are establishing a log-in network; employed group policies with log-ins and passwords; Window updates; increased back ups; minimized the number of stand alones in the network; centralized the network operations; streamlined network protocols; increased security; increased connectivity; switched to proactive mode.

"We're watching things, we're monitoring things so we don't have problems," said Hare.

Other improvements are on the way, including moving to enterprise hardware. He also mentioned several projects, such as switching how municipal court is handled. E-mail storage has also been increased. He's also upgraded and improved

"We did redo the Web site last year," he said. "City codes are on-line. Council agendas and minutes are on-line. Building permits are on-line. Maintenance requests are on-line. We have some more ideas for more things on the Web site."

Hare also has other duties and knows his work will only continue as Baldwin City gets bigger.

"I manage the phone system and much, much more," he said. "We're going to grow and technology is going to be a part of that."

Cleavinger was pleased with what she heard.

"Just from a financial standpoint, I think anytime we make an investment like this in terms of adding a position, we need to know that the value to the city is there that we expected and that we can justify the expense," she said. "I don't think there's any question that this was a much-needed addition to our city staff.

"That's why I asked for the report," said Cleavinger. "I think we should do the same thing with the other positions we added -- animal control officer, part-time police department clerk and firefighter, if we ever get one hired -- once they've had time to settle into their positions."

Hare appreciated having the chance to fill the council in on what he's done and will be doing.

Monday's agenda was light. Monte Ezell, Baldwin City Recreation Commission director, gave his usual report, including telling the council of a 7 p.m. April 25 meeting at the Lodge for people interested in trips the commission is offering to New England and Ireland. Ezell also said there is going to be a tennis block party from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 29 at the Baker University tennis courts.

"Honestly, it's for anybody," said Ezell. "We'll be starting a tennis program after it."

In the only action items, the council approved unanimously the appointment of City Administrator Jeff Dingman and electric director Rob Culley to the Kansas Municipal Electric Association and Jan Boyd to a term on the Baldwin City Public Library board of trustees.

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