Chesterton Tribune



Deadlocked County Council tables IT requests for server tech, website

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In its regular business Tuesday, the Porter County Council deadlocked in two 3-3 votes on requests made by the County Information Technologies Department.

The first was a joint request with the County Commissioners for a transfer of $75,000 to pay the initial licensing and maintenance fees to the Kansas-based Civic Plus who the Commissioners hired to build a new interactive version of the County’s website.

The push to revamp the website has been going on a little more than a year. County IT Director Sharon Lippens said citizens can ask questions on the site and have them answered. They will also have “much easier” access to information and schedules “keeping abreast of things as they want to be,” Lippens said, and can login on SmartPhones.

Department heads will find it easier to post information on their web pages and will do so usually without the help of the IT department.

Voting against the transfer were members Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, Sylvia Graham, D-At Large, and Dan Whitten, D-At Large. In favor were Council president Bob Poparad, D-At Large, Karen Conover, R-3rd, and Jim Polarek, R-4th.

Absent from the meeting was Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st.

Polarek asked if local firms had been sought. Lippens said there was an RFP issued and Civic Plus was chosen because it specializes in building websites for local governments.

Whitten said he would like to hear more details on the RFP that was sent out and how Civic Plus was chosen and services offered. Graham added that she would like to first make sure there is a commitment from the County department heads.

The Council will revisit the matter likely at its next meeting.

The second request was to create a position for a new server administrator in the IT office to help the County’s 500-some computers stay in good working condition, which has been tabled multiple times.

Lippens has tried twice already to get approval but instead has only been told to come again before the Council. She said her department spends at least two hours each morning combating issues caused by computer viruses that are “spreading like wildfire,” causing the office staff to work overtime and on weekends.

Lippens said her office is being buried under work and sometimes it takes a week to get to requests for assistance.

“Do you feel like your back is up against a wall, Sharon?” asked Conover.

“I do,” Lippens replied.

The salary for the new server administrator would be set at $52,000 annually and $39,000 would be paid out to cover the rest of this year. Part of the salary would be reimbursed by the Court IV-D funds that come from the state.

But some Council members did not change their stance from last meeting, fearing a financial crunch.

Voting in favor of the request were Polarek, Conover, and Poparad. Dissenting were Whitten, Rivas, and Graham.

Raise the Barn withdrawn

Also, the County Parks Department withdrew its third attempt to ask the Council to authorize $1.5 million in hospital sale interest money for the construction of the Raise the Barn activity and administration center at Sunset Hill Park. The matter has been tabled twice before by Council members who cited the need for a comprehensive spending plan for the County before dipping into the interest money.

A utility vehicle worth $17,124, from Riggs Mowers of Valparaiso, was approved on a 6-0 vote for purchase for the parks department, which will come out of the parks capital fund.

Library board appointment

Portage teacher Deb Porter won the vote for the Council’s appointment to the Porter County Public Library Board, with four votes from Whitten, Poparad, Rivas, and Graham, over another nominee, Victoria Gresham, supported by Conover and Polarek.

Both Graham and Conover said they were surprised by the number of responses they got which they said shows many citizens have a willingness to serve the county.

“I’ve never seen this much energy. It’s very encouraging,” Conover said.

Also Tuesday, the Council approved the spring payout of longevity funds to county employees, using County Economic Development Income Tax dollars to make up for the lack of this year’s casino revenues from the state.

The Health Department was allowed a transfer of $10,000 from its part-time hourly budget to pay for two new blood chemistry analyzer machines.



Posted 6/26/2013