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HomeBusiness & CommunityCounty Board Approves Position for Building Division to Alleviate Congestion After Cyber-Attack

County Board Approves Position for Building Division to Alleviate Congestion After Cyber-Attack

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Earlier this year, cyber-attacks were carried out against Hernando County causing all manner of network interruptions and technological headaches for the local government. Months later, the county is still feeling the effects of the disruption. Though some of the systems are back up to speed, departments like the Building Division are still treading water.

During the Board of County Commissioners’ Regular Meeting on May 28, Development Services director Peter Schwarz came before the panel to request a mid-year budget adjustment for the addition of an Operations Support Specialist to his department. The commissioners were eager to put these long-running issues behind them and voted unanimously (5-0) to approve the extra position.

While Schwarz and company had intended to wait until the 2025 fiscal budget to make the proposal through traditional means, the technological problems they have faced have put them significantly behind.

“With the added workload we are experiencing in the department due to some of the network issues that we have encountered and some other things, this is a position that is desperately needed and that is the reason we are asking now instead of through the normal budget process,” said Schwarz.

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This would only be the second such specialized position in the department. They would be coordinating with plans examiners, handling the interactions between staff and private providers to help the permitting process move along quickly. This role should be able to alleviate congestion in the department’s workload.

While the board agreed that adding a new hire would help, they did have some questions. Commissioner Jerry Campbell prefaced that everyone in Schwarz’s team was doing a fine job but was curious about the reasoning for why the director’s department had announced that they would be limiting their hours in the coming months.

“We had a computer-aided phone information center with four dedicated phone staff that would try to alleviate some of the phone calls that were coming in,” Schwarz explained. “They were able to look up information for people who needed information about a building permit, and they were able to eliminate some of the phone calls to some of the permit technicians, to the building inspectors, to the plans examiners. When [the network issues] happened, we lost that computer-aided system and basically our phone system which the telephones were the lowest priority for restoration.”

Without the computer-aided system, the department’s phones have been ringing off the hook. As a result, Schwarz put in a prior request to Commissioner Jeff Rogers for the building division to be able to put their phones on “night service” for two hours a day between two and four in the afternoon so they may catch up with other necessary tasks without getting bogged down from the inordinate amount of calls they are otherwise receiving. Since their system is so closely linked to the other IT and county email issues, there is still no timetable on when it will become operational again.

Commissioner Champion was outspoken in his displeasure with the ongoing problems. He wondered if they should hire another outside company to expedite the restoration of the county’s technological infrastructure. A creative idea he opined might lessen the workload on Schwarz’s crew involved the axing of the need to approve smaller permits. The director responded, however, that the bigger unavoidable permits were largely responsible for gumming up the works.

Commissioner John Allocco saw the importance of Schwarz’s proposal and wanted to get it moving along quickly. He made the motion to approve with Commissioner Brian Hawkins seconding the motion to create this extra position. “It is really about trying to get us caught up, trying to just get back to zero. It is just a temporary solution,” said Schwarz.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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