In this age when computers are being outmoded at an incredible rate, changing out hardware and software to keep up isn’t easy. Most civilians have to work pretty hard to stretch the life expectancy of their gear. Same goes for the financially challenged Town of Mammoth Lakes, which has made the most of its aging equipment, but now finds it has reached the point of no return.
In light of a 2012 analysis of the Town’s Information Technology situation by Mono County IT Specialists Clay Neely, Cameron Cary and Kirk Hartstrom, Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez is seeking to contract with the County to provide the Town’s IT services.
Presented as an informational item to Town Council during its April 17 meeting, prior to that meeting MMM had sent an April 4 letter regarding her idea to the Mono Board of Supervisors, and appeared with Mayor Matthew Lehman before the BOS on the matter during public comments at the Board’s April 9 meeting. The item has been placed on the Board’s agenda for its upcoming May 7 meeting.
In her report to Council, MMM wrote, “The Town currently budgets for one full time IT position (Senior Information Technology Specialist), which is presently filled. Instead, the Town’s present IT needs require access to a wider range of specialists, ideally to various levels and types of IT support personnel. As a result, for quite some time now, the Town has experienced serious operational and technical deficiencies with its Information Technology (IT) services. These deficiencies include unreliable and outdated hardware, inadequate and obsolete software, and an inability to effectively handle [the Town’s] IT needs with only one [specialist].”
The County’s assessment was fairly blunt in its observations.
According to Neely’s analysis, the Town’s IT setup consists of 4 sites, and a total of about 7 servers, and 67 workstations. Included in those totals is the Mammoth Lakes Police Department (MLPD) with two servers, and 14 workstations. Of all the sites, Neely found that the MLPD was the only one with an acceptable IT infrastructure.
“In general, we found the rest of the town’s network and workstations to be borderline dysfunctional,” he concluded. “Aging, poorly maintained servers, combined with low quality network equipment and aging workstations create an environment comparable to a ticking time bomb.” That the Town hasn’t had a major IT failure appears to be something of a small miracle. “It is an environment ripe for a major breakdown, and a complete halt of technology services and employee productivity.”
The analysis was also very critical of the poor state of the systems’ documentation, saying there appears to be no documentation whatsoever of key elements of the Town’s network infrastructure, including all its servers and backup strategies, as well as key software configurations, which the County charged should all be documented and maintained.
Also lacking is an accurate workstation inventory and software licensing records, which are important to ensuring legal compliance, and making informed purchasing and maintenance decisions. In other words, does the Town own all of its site licenses for programs, and if so should it consider upgrading to a newer version, or replacing it with new software?
“In simple terms, it is our recommendation that you replace just about everything you have with new equipment and then document and maintain that environment in a professional manner,” Neely’s report noted. “Because of time and budget constraints, this cannot happen overnight. Considering the Town’s financial condition, at the present time, we are taking a very conservative approach to our recommendations. Having said that, there is some equipment that needs to be replaced immediately.”
The County recommended significant changes and upgrades across the board, including inventorying and replacing desktop workstations, a new software management plan, improved network hardware and related security software, establishing redundant servers as backups, at least until Digital 395 is in place, including one located at the Road Shop, and backup of the Airport’s Quickbooks data, among other needs.
MMM’s plan is to “address as soon as possible the Town’s information technology needs identified by the County IT staff,” which broke those down into “High” and “Medium” priorities. Current funding for Fiscal Year 2012-13 is $83,844, calculated as follows: High-priority needs, including server replacement, technology issues at the yard and Airport, software licenses, critical policies: $41,124. Medium-priority needs, including replacement of desktops, IT documentation, a replacement schedule and network switching upgrades: $42,720. All that is well above the County’s $42,079 estimated spending recommended in the County’s 2012 report.
Her recommendation for next fiscal year (2013-14) is at least $163,058. That would provide annual funding for a full-time equivalent County contracted position at $133,058, and an annual replacement budget set aside of at least $30,000.
That spending means a layoff, in this case the Town Senior Information Technology Specialist position, currently held by Dan Dennis, who was spared a layoff during the Town’s recent budget austerity restructuring. Under MMM’s proposal, effective as of the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year on July 1, the Town will likely eliminate funding for the position for the duration of the MOU contract with General Employees Association, which runs through June 30, 2016.
Meanwhile, the new contract with the County would cover three to five years, with an annual end-of-year review. The start date would ideally be “as soon as possible.” In addition, MMM would also like consideration to be given to incorporating the current contract between the Town and the County for GIS services.