by LISA MACNEIL and KATHRYN DENTATO
In a special meeting held on April 22, 2019, the Brooksville City Council voted unanimously to begin the process to find an outside vendor to provide the city’s Information Technology (IT) services. IT services were being provided by Hernando County, however City Manager Mark Kutney stated he was not happy with the arrangement.
The council met with members of a committee headed by City Manager Mark Kutney to explore the city’s options in finding an external company to provide Information Technology (IT) services, rather than form an “in-house” IT department. According to Kutney, a city-run department of two employees would cost over $300,000.
In terms of technology, the software that runs the city is in urgent need of upgrades. The core database management system is Windows 2000 Server, which was first released in the late 90s.
With the decision to go forward, Kutney told the council that a solicitation or proposal would need to be developed to present to prospective vendors. The proposal itself will need to be prepared externally, as the city currently does not have any professional IT staff members to write the technology-specific contract.
Two vendors, Spectrum and VC3 have offered to prepare model proposals at no cost. The best fitting proposal will then be chosen by the council. These vendors would also be in the running for consideration to provide the actual services. The city’s attorney was consulted to ensure the preparer of the proposal could also be a respondent. “This doesn’t automatically mean that VC3 or Spectrum would automatically become the contractor,” Kutney said. “They’re aware of that.”
Council members Joe Bernardini and Pat Brayton disagree. Both see potential problems if the creators of the proposal should not be considered to provide the service. The alternative would be hiring a consultant to prepare the proposal, and could be costly, according to Kutney. Brayton later agreed, provided that the council ultimately vote on an acceptable proposal.
The second vote did not receive support from Council Member Joe Bernardini, who does not approve of the two companies submitting the proposals to be considered later to be providers. This motion passed however, 4-1.
The second technology topic discussed was the City of Brooksville website (http://www.ci.brooksville.fl.us). The main concern with the current site is that it is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities) Compliant, and will require considerable modifications to its design and programming, as well as hosting to attain compliance.
The council considered a proposal by CivicPlus, a web development company specializing in local governments. The estimated cost for the transformed website is approximately $11,000. The council approved 5-0.
The city will continue to use Hernando County for broadcasting services (as the conduit for televising and recording the meetings). Kutney listed three other options (Spectrum, Live streaming, School Board site) but recommended remaining with the County at this time. Battista moved to maintain the contract with the County. Brayton seconded the motion and the council discussed the options. Erhard stated she was in favor of looking at other options. The County is working on the closed captioning of the broadcasts, Battista said. The current contract was originally signed in 2009, Brayton said, and expected to see an addendum to include the cost of the closed captioning. The council voted 5-0 in favor of continuing the current contract with the County.
Several miscellaneous technology items were discussed with Kutney asking staff members to describe some technology which is useful in their departments.
- Jetpack mobile device – This is used in the field and ties into the laptop to pull up maps for the utilities department and even the fire department. Any utility work can be uploaded quickly. The savings cost for paper and employee time is considerable. Verizon’s contract with the government includes the equipment. The City only pays a monthly fee for each of the five units. The laptops were refurbished from the police department’s inventory.
- Facial Recognition program – This is used instead of time clocks at DPW, the water treatment plant on Cobb Road and the Parks Department since they do not have access to the computer time card system. The system will recognize the employee’s face and they are clocked in/out automatically within seconds. It is faster and it’s also a sanitary solution since the hand scanner could transmit disease.
- Fire Department Emergency Reporting Software – The cloud-based system is the largest one available and is cost effective. The fire department has six desktop units, three MDT (mobile data terminals) units in the fire trucks have computers and two iPads. The information is entered into the system in real time on one of the devices which only requires a Wi-Fi connection. All activity is time-stamped into a daily log. It interfaces with the Sheriff’s Department’s CAD system and National Fire Reporting System. The system links to the DPW information about hydrants and the GIS mapping. Commercial occupancy is an important aspect of the software for pre-fire planning purposes, something which will improve the Fire Department’s ISO score. Information and pictures of the buildings, including specific sites inside are uploaded. The software tracks personnel training, employee documentation, schedules, and meetings. It sends notices for upcoming fire inspections. There is a library of information accessible by any employee. The longer the system is used, the more data can be collected for analytical purposes and comprehensive reporting.
- Permitting/Code Enforcement Software – The software needs have changed over the years. The software that was in place in 2006 became outdated and changed, and the company providing support is no longer in business. The department could use the software, but it needed updates and maintenance. In 2017 code enforcement software from IworQ was installed. The cost included backing up property appraiser data, annual maintenance, employee training and any customizations.
- Microix and MIP – The Microix program handles budgeting, purchase orders/invoices, and timesheets. The budgeting process was briefly explained. Timesheet protocol was discussed. The MIP software is the reporting software and interfaces with Microix.
- Facebook – The Facebook page will be adjusted to “post only”, which means the public cannot comment or respond to the items on Facebook. Traffic on the Facebook page has increased. Sample social media polices were provided for the council to review.
- GIS (Geographic Information System) – This is a mapping system that is used for city planning and development, for utilities, and the property appraiser’s office.
- Text Messaging Retention App – At the time of the meeting, the app information was not provided. Text messages can be exported to a file to several file extensions. The app is free and can be downloaded to the phone by the user. The user will be able to select a time frame for saving specific messages.