Pulaski County’s IT Services Continue to Draw Questions from County Council Members

Pulaski County officials continue to voice concerns with the county’s IT arrangements, but organizing a discussion is proving to be a challenge. Some county council members had wanted to discuss IT plans with the county commissioners and had apparently asked to have it included on Monday’s joint session agenda. But when it was sent out, the only item listed was the approval of the prior joint session minutes.

Council Member Kathi Thompson was among those voicing frustration. “If there’s nothing on the agenda, why are we even here?” she asked. “Are we just here so we can let the public know that we aren’t brave enough to discuss something that’s going to cost the county money, like IT?”

Council Member Brian Young’s motion to formally add IT to the agenda was voted down, but the county officials proceeded to spend about 40 minutes discussing it anyway. Council President Jay Sullivan said part of the reason it wasn’t put on the agenda was that he felt the commissioners had already decided on a route to take, and the only thing up to the council was to decide how to fund it.

But other council members didn’t think they had enough information to do that. The commissioners are currently reviewing a proposal from DeGroot Technology for contracted IT services, but Thompson said it hasn’t been shared with the council yet. “We don’t even have a way to proceed with our budget because they have a request from a company that we haven’t seen, and we’re going into budget meetings in a couple of weeks and we haven’t even seen that for our budgets,” she said. Conversely, Commissioner Kenny Becker said he was waiting for the council to make its budget, so the commissioners could know what the county could afford.

The commissioners generally felt that contracting IT services out to DeGroot was the most cost-effective option, and several department heads appeared happy with the company’s service. But some officials were concerned that there wouldn’t be anyone to provide some larger oversight of the county’s technology systems.

One example that was raised was the county’s cell phones. Thompson said that based on her calculations, the county is spending more than $6,000 a year on cell phones that aren’t being used, and department heads – especially newer ones – have no easy way of knowing, since the bills go to the Auditor’s Office. Making matters even worse is that the names on the bills are often out-of-date. The late Bud Krohn Jr. is still apparently listed as having a county-issued cell phone, even though the line has reportedly been passed along to someone else.

As a solution, Council President Sullivan suggested that any requests for DeGroot’s IT services go through the Maintenance Department, but that was quickly dismissed by other county officials. It was also mentioned that the president of the board of commissioners used to oversee the county’s cell phones before the creation of the IT Department.

Another concern was how to budget IT services. The commissioners initially felt that it would be better to have each department be responsible for IT costs, but Thompson asked what would happen if there’s a county-wide Internet or email system problem.

During the council’s regular meeting, Pulaski County resident and Tippecanoe County Chief Information Officer Kent Kroft said the elimination of the Pulaski County IT Department is drawing concern from state-level IT officials. But there may be potential solutions, such as possibly establishing regional partnerships for county IT. Additionally, Thompson strongly supported Kroft’s recommendation to set up a county IT advisory board, noting that it could be done even before the IT budget is figured out.