The city of University Heights is hoping that a group of experts will be able to fix the problems with the city’s IT infrastructure. Officials are hopeful that recent recruits with IT backgrounds will move things forward.
(TNS) — During his first state-of-the-city address in February, 2019, University Heights Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan told of taking office in January, 2018 and experiencing an “informational technology meltdown.”
“City hall’s [computer] firewall had been breached, the password did not work, the installer could not be identified or found, and we soon learned that the city’s IT had been handled on an ad hoc, a la carte basis, with no apparent planning or care, or consistency, or dedicated IT person or company," Brennan stated in his address. He added that, on that first day, city hall had no working server or “meaningful backing up or archiving.”
More than two year since taking office and after having since used the services of two IT firms which he said have not been able to satisfactorily handle the job, Brennan is still looking for answers. To help find those answers, Brennan has assembled a new Technology Advisory Commission which met for the first time via an online Zoom meeting Monday (March 23) evening, chaired by Councilwoman Susan Pardee.
The committee had been established more than a year ago, but hadn’t met in some time. New members, with credentials in information technology and other backgrounds, were recruited.
Members include residents Andrew Grau, who works in cybersecurity; attorney Steve Dlott; Christine Hudak, who has worked with hospital information systems for more than 35 years and is director of the health informatics program at Kent State University; Jiang Quian, a trained theoretical physicist whose interests include servers; Steve Washington, a lawyer who has started companies and who has interest in Smart Cities technology; and Tex Troxell, the CEO of LIFTR, a firm that allows marketers to test ads before launching them. The committee also includes John Carroll University’s Jim Burke, the only non-resident, but a man who has worked in the city for 35 years.
Brennan explained to committee members that when he became mayor, he inherited an IT service provider from the previous administration and, while that firm worked out for a while, he soon found out that “we were having issues with networking, issues with security, issues with Wi-Fi, and issues with the quality of service.”
A switch was made in 2019 to another company, Concord IT Solutions, which Brennan said, was “not forthwith with us” when it came to its certification for handling sensitive police information. Brennan said there were other issues with the company, including getting email credentials set up for interns, and the company not permitting a firefighter who was handling some IT matters continue on in that role.
After parting ways with Concord, Brennan said he sought advice from other mayors as to who he should choose, and began working with Bailey IT Solutions. He was exclusively working for a short while with a Bailey representative who then, unexpectedly, left the firm, leading Brennan to speak with the head of the company as to what might next happen regarding the city’s IT needs. It is with the current uncertainty with the Bailey partnership that Monday’s meeting was held.
Brennan is also looking for an IT firm because there will soon be a need to get a certified firm to handle police matters.
“The police department has a sergeant who has done IT for many years,” Brennan said. “Sgt. Brian Lombardo has done very well with IT, but we still have to consider succession because he is close to retirement.”
Troxell suggested, and other committee members agreed, that rather than just choose another IT firm to serve University Heights, it would be wise to audit the entire city system. Troxell suggested a third party, not Bailey, conduct the audit.
When Pardee asked how much such an audit may cost, Burke said, “I’m going to guess $50,000. There’s probably a lot of issues we don’t even know exist.”
As its first undertaking, each committee member will make suggestions, by April 6, as to who should conduct the audit. The committee was also tasked by that date to help Brennan form a request for qualifications so that bids for the audit work can be taken.
In another order of business at the committee’s first meeting, it selected Troxell, who also volunteers as a computer science teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, to serve as its chairman.
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