Cost-savings elusive in closure of county’s information technology department

Osage County commissioners have been prospecting for cost-cutting measures, but have learned their plan to shutter the county’s information technology department and instead contract for IT services might not pan out any savings.

During Monday’s commission meeting, commissioners reviewed a bid from Nex-Tech for IT services, which was about triple the salary of former IT technician Robert Duncan, whose position and department was terminated in November.

Presented by Brian Meder, of Nex-Tech, the company’s contract for services would be for a minimum term of three years with a monthly payment of $7,556.11 ($90,673 annually), after a first-time client discount of $1,000 per month is applied. Duncan was paid $13.60 per hour, or approximately $29,000 annually not including his benefits.

In November, when commissioners eliminated the county’s IT department, they indicated it was part of their efforts to save money. Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall said later that in shuttering the information technology department, commissioners were exploring options to contract for those services to reduce this year’s IT expenses. He said all county departments will be reviewed by the commissioners, and that “drastic measures” such as the layoff of the IT department could similarly affect other county departments.

While Duncan’s position has been eliminated, he remains on the county’s payroll for 90 days following his separation date in November, after commissioners approved a severance agreement in December.

The contract Meder presented covers on-site and remote technical support of the county’s computers, servers and security appliances, backup services, and related services. Explained during the meeting was that the contract would include replacement of 54 of the county’s computers and monitors, with the exclusion of the computer system in the county clerk’s office, referred to as the AS400. Osage County Clerk Rhonda Beets said the AS400 handles software for taxes, payroll, and financial management.

Meder noted the contract also doesn’t cover printers or their installation, or network cabling or installation.

During the conversation, Kuykendall inquired about the county appraiser’s real estate software system, referred to as Orion, which is currently nonoperational due to a malfunctioning server. Meder said he had conferred with county appraiser Stacy Berry, and would be working with her to possibly replace the server after the meeting.

Kuykendall said discussion had been under way about the possibility of operating the Orion system on a state-owned remote server. Berry said the system had been down for several weeks and it was expected to take a few more weeks before it would be operational.

“We’re still examining and looking,” Kuykendall said, telling Meder the commissioners were not ready to make a decision on IT services. “We’re weeks away from actually deciding what we’re doing.”

In other business during the meeting, commissioners heard from health department director Anne Gray that influenza had been identified in Kansas and it was not too late to get a flu shot. Maintenance superintendent Clark Thompson reported that the automatic door opener on the courthouse’s west entrance was nonoperational and anyone needing to use an automatic door could use the north entrance to the courthouse. Commissioners advised Thompson to have the west door repaired, as it is the courthouse’s only official handicapped-accessible entrance. Commissioners also heard from Byron Jordan, director of Osage County Senior Center, who reported that due to a new restaurant opening at Osage City, the senior center’s parking lot is being used by restaurant customers. Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn is to inspect the parking lot to make recommendations about installing new signage to better inform drivers that the public parking lot is for the use of senior center patrons.


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