Tech upgrades likely in small doses for county

The Piatt County board’s building and grounds committee has approved a $1,680 purchase to renew expired software for county board members, but a more extensive countywide upgrade proposed last summer is still in the discussion stages.

At its meeting March 6, the committee recommended the renewal of cloud-based Microsoft 360 packages, including email, for seven users – the six county board members and one for office personnel who post agendas and documents for the board.

County technology consultant Scott Davis said the software package was previously under one former board member’s user name, something that will be remedied with each having their own account.

The move brought frustration from committee member Bob Murrell, who pointed out a $32,350 proposal to replace the entire county’s email system had been on the table since last summer.

“Here we go again with a knee-jerk reaction to something that we could have anticipated,” said Murrell. “Instead we wait until the eleventh hour. It’s just another example of my frustrations of how we operate. We react.”

The action was actually more of a post-midnight move, with the current software subscription expiring on Feb. 9, according to County Zoning Officer Keri Nusbaum.

She said, “you would still have email,” without renewing Microsoft 360 accounts, but “you wouldn’t be able to open the spreadsheets or anything that came to you.”

Similar moves may be needed as other 360 subscriptions come up for renewal, unless the county upgrades them all at once. Last summer Davis proposed a $130,000 technology upgrade that would include email and software upgrades, as well as replacing aging file servers. No action was taken because money could not be found in the budget to fund it.

Board President Ray Spencer said he understands the need, but that funds are scarce.

“Are we part of the part of the problem or part of the solution? We’re trying to be part of the solution,” he commented. “If (county clerk) Jennifer (Harper) does not have to print out packets for every board meeting, that’s saving money too.”

Davis said purchases may be needed on an ongoing basis as other subscriptions expire. He added that switching all county users to one system at the same time would make it more secure, noting the current email system has been hacked in the past.

“You can set the accounts up so it’s two-factor authentication as well, so that you can get a code sent to your phone, so that even if you’re on another computer, unless I have my phone or another device I can get that code from, I can’t get to my account. So it adds that extra level of security,” said Davis, noting that second level is an optional feature.

Spencer inherited financial issues when he took over as county board chairman in December. The county general fund balance was nearly $1 million less at that time than a year prior, with some large ticket items like the technology upgrade still on the needs list.

The board’s internet committee may schedule a meeting in order to discuss the idea of a county-wide update.

Other action
In other discussion the, committee:

–Noted the donated large screen television had been mounted and was set up to show agendas and other documents during committee and board meetings;

–heard from Sheriff David Hunt that is considering Spillman Technologies if it purchases a new records management system. A quote from Zuercher Technologies came in at $175,000, and Hunt believes Spillman could be half that cost. If the agency combines forces with neighboring DeWitt County o the purchase, the price could come down more;

–was told by Mental Health Center Director Tony Kirkman that he had applied for an Outreach 101 grant from area state representative Dan Caulkins for flooring replacement. Caulkins is donating his salary to a non-profit he formed to make grants to agencies and organizations within his legislative district.



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