Expensive tech upgrade looms for county

Piatt County computer servers are failing at a rate that could pay off a proposed dual-server technology upgrade within two years. But finding the up-front money is still an issue, especially with initial budget talks showing the county well short of funds needed for the fiscal year that begins Dec. 1.

A county clerk server that stopped operating recently pushed the upgrade back to the forefront of discussion at the county board building and grounds meeting Sept. 5. The plan would be to replace the 16 aging department servers with two large ones that would provide space and backup for all county offices. The cost to purchase and migrate information from the current hard drives is $65,000.

Technology Consultant Scott Davis estimated at least five servers will need replacements over the next year, including at least two at the county clerk’s office. At $8,000 to $10,000 each to replace individual servers, he said the upgrade could be paid for simply through the savings of not needing individual servers for each office.

“You’re looking at upwards of $50,000 for five servers that you’re going to have to spend money for because they are on life support now,” said Davis. “I’m just putting that out there because you’re going to be on emergency mode on some of these servers shortly.”

One of those is in the county clerk’s office, which had two devices stop working in the past two weeks. With the November election on the way, clerk Jennifer Harper said “we’re going to have to make some pretty fast decisions.”

Servers have a typical life of about five years, he said, and noted that many in the county are well past that, including one that dates to the year 2000.

County Board Chairman Al Manint understood the issue, but said there is just no money at this point to pay for the project, which could expand to a $130,000 price tag if a new email system and software upgrades are also included.

“We’re getting closer on budget issues, and quite frankly there is no money for that at this time, unless we can find some type of grant to help fund that,” said Manint. “I would recommend she (Harper) replace that server, because I do not see that (county-wide dual server system) happening in the near future.”

“I understand the dire need,” added Manint, but commented that, after preliminary budget talks, “right now, we’re scratching trying find out how we’re going to come up with an additional $600,000 in the budget.”

County transportation engineer Eric Seibring suggested looking at each department budget to see if technology funds could be combined to help fund the upgrade.

“It’s going to come out of the budget somewhere,” he said. After pooling resources, he added, “how far off are you?”

Sheriff David Hunt said he does not put money in his budget for servers, and that technology line items go towards computer replacement and IT support, items that would also be needed.

Committee member Bob Murrell made a motion to recommend purchase of the dual server system to the county board, but it did not net a second. Manint said more detailed budget figures should be known over the next month and lead to a more informed decision.

Murrell also suggested a possible payment plan if Davis of All Your Needs Consulting is willing.

Hunt also asked if bond money earmarked towards the purchase and upkeep of the Public Office Building could pay for the project. Since some of the new equipment would be housed there, it was thought that a portion of it would be eligible for bond proceeds.

Third floor railing
Consensus was that no additional apparatus was needed to prevent incidents like the one on Aug. 21 when a 16-year-old youth was injured after jumping over a third floor railing at the courthouse and landed on the second floor.

Hunt said it was the first such incident he could find ever happening in the 1903 building.

There are courthouses that have put additional mesh or other safety features on top of railings to avoid such occurrences, but Hunt was not sure that was needed in Piatt County.

“How do you mitigate someone trying to jump off and harm themselves anyways. You could spend the money on something that may never happen again; or spend something on something that could happen again next week,” said Hunt.

“I don’t think you can spend enough money to prevent somebody from doing something, so there’s no end to it,” added committee member Ray Spencer. “You can’t stop everything.”

Committee members did not make any recommendations to the full county board on the issue.

Hunt did say escorts in the courthouse would be taking further precautions to alleviate the chance of someone else jumping over railings.

In other action, the committee:

–expressed some disappointment over the parking lot sealing done at the office building. Seibring explained that only small cracks can be sealed at this point without costly asphalt replacement, and that the goal behind the $20,000 job was to extend the life of the current surface;

–heard that new flooring is being installed at the mental health center as part of a warranty upgrade; and

–was told the electronic doors at the public safety building will soon be repaired by an outside contractor.




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