MOUNT VERNON — County Administrator Jason Booth says the county is at a crossroads between the increasing demand for information and technology and current IT services.
“We have a contract with Info-Link for IT services, and they have done a really outstanding job of fixing the county infrastructure and making sure it is secure,” said Booth. “The contract calls for two full-time technicians. We're at the point where it's really not enough. We are looking at whether it is time for the county to transition to our own department.”
Booth said feedback from county departments is that there are not enough resources to meet their needs.
“Every department for the last three to five years has added to technology needs,” he said, noting that those needs cover multiple departments in multiple buildings. “It's just more and more integration of technology. That's more manpower.”
The Info-Link contract expires in April 2020. Options include renewing the contract with additional personnel, working with Info-Link to create a hybrid system, or the county going completely alone.
“We realize if we are going to go another route, we can't wait until the last minute,” said Booth. “Ideally, we think it's the right time to start the transition. We want to try and see what's out there and see where we go from here.”
The county is advertising for a director to lead its IT efforts. The director will be a working director and report to Booth.
Responsibilities will include providing input on what form the county's IT resources will take, prioritizing projects, coordinating with Info-Link if the county chooses a hybrid system, and overseeing two technicians if the county creates its own IT department. Booth said resumes are trickling in.
“It's a tough labor market right now to get people willing to leave and come with us who meet all of the skill sets we want,” he said.
Booth said the amount of technology infused into county departments the last few years is “amazing.” That technology includes a purchase order system, agendas and minutes, Court View, phone systems, and a year phase-in for 911's CAD system. Additionally, individual contracts for the Knox County Sheriff's Office and 911 were rolled into one contract with Info-Link, putting even more work on the two technicians.
“All of these projects are critical and prioritizing gets difficult,” he said. “Firewalls for security and all of the logistics is a lot for any IT project without doing any other projects. Routine stuff like emails gets put on hold.”
The contract with Info-Link is $205,000 a year. Booth thinks the move in-house would be cost-effective or at least cost-neutral.
“If you start adding to the [Info-Link contract], it's going to cost more than that,” said Booth. “I hope we can save money on equipment purchases [by bringing it in-house].”
He acknowledged there are trade-offs between continuing to outsource IT support and bringing it in-house.
“I think we are just to the point where our IT structure has grown so that it might be time to bring it in-house,” he said. “Because of [Info-Links's] efforts, we might be able to have someone come in to manage what they put in place.
“I think we need to explore those options.”