Thursday, October 23, 2008

Plainfield Budget 2009: Information Technology

Our city is far behind when it comes to the efficiencies created by information technology (IT). We have yet to enter the tail end of the 20th century, to put it kindly. The current administration acknowledges this and has spoken about the need for an IT plan and a major investment to bring us up to speed.

The problem has been hearing the words but seeing little action. There was cause for hope last year when the city announced a shared services agreement with the Plainfield Board of Education. This was a contract valued at $125,000 for a year of services including help desk and system maintenance. There was also an IT grant in our 2007 budget to help us move ahead. Then, just last week, the City Council heard that the agreement will not be renewed and that the Mayors team wants to go ahead without the help of our school district. We also heard that the grant hadn't come through. Unfortunately, the Council, including it's IT Committee, hadn't heard that news before. And the shared services agreement expired in June 2008. Left in the dark until the last meeting, I could only look on in amazement as the administration asked for a last minute budget change to let the city go it's own way for IT development. No plan was offered to get us on track.

At last weeks budget meeting, City Administrator Mark Dashield did not give a clear reason why the agreement was not renewed or why the grant was lost. I was left with the impression that the shared services agreement fell apart on the Board of Education's end. I decided to do my own research.

My sources at the Board of Ed tell me that there is interest in continuing the shared services agreement. Our Mayor even corresponded with the Board of Ed regarding a contract renewal. So what happened? We deserve answers, on the grant too. I hope they come at tonight's (Thursday) Council meeting. Unfortunately I am out of town and will have to catch up with this tomorrow.

We need a major investment in information technology for Plainfield. Speaking for myself, I will need to see a plan, not just for spending, but for a multi year roll out of hardware, software, staff development and technical assistance. I will also need to feel more confident in the ability of city government to spend our money effectively.


Anonymous said...

It's far behind because we keep spending money on things that don't exist, like Dudley House. Put the 100+K money toward technology and get a non-profit to run the house.

Oh, and vote in a way that makes sense in 2009 (do you want the same-o same-o?)

Anonymous said...

The actual cost to the city for operating Dudley House--a very effective program and one of the oldest and best halfway houses in the state--is about $30K a year. The rest is covered by grants, and funds for client services come with the clients. Unfortunately the data in the budget presentations was incredibly flawed, and some citizens and Council members bought it. Hopefully the Council will begin to understand the facts before deciding on the budget.

Those who want to outsource Dudley House to a "non-profit" should keep in mind what that "non-profit," Solaris, did to us in closing Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. For months, citizens urged the Council to appeal that decision, and it finally took a kick in the butt from the Mayor to get them to act.

If the Council concludes that the City shouldn't operate social services such as Dudley House, perhaps they should apply the same reasoning to programs like the Bi-Lingual Daycare Center, another valuable Plainfield resource.

I hope those Council members who want to dump Dudley House will pay attention to the facts, put personal agendas aside, and think better of this not-so-bright idea before it's too late and Plainfield loses this wonderful and very successful program.