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No action taken to disband data board



Published: Fri, June 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Boardman company will help update the county's Web site.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County commissioners took no action on a request by Auditor George Tablack to disband the data processing board.

The issue came up at the commissioners' meeting last week, and Tablack continued it at their Thursday session.

Commissioner David Ludt made a motion to disband the board, which oversees the procurement of equipment and personnel for the county's data processing needs.

His motion, however, died for a lack of a second from either Chairman Anthony Traficanti or Commissioner John A. McNally IV.

Tablack, who serves on the data processing board, and Stephen J. Stanec Jr., the county's outgoing director of information technology, again told commissioners opportunities were being missed to save the county money by merging the county's voice and data technologies because of the inability for the data processing board to meet and make decisions.

Scheduling conflicts

"I understand his frustration about not being able to meet," Traficanti said Thursday. "However, I don't feel comfortable about abolishing the board until I can talk to the board members themselves and ask them why they can't meet."

McNally said he would just like to see the board meet as soon as it can, given everyone's schedules.

The board is composed of Ludt; Tablack; Treasurer John Reardon; Recorder Ron Gerberry; Clerk of Courts Anthony Vivo Jr.; Michael Sciortino, director of the county elections board; and Thomas McCabe, elections board deputy director.

Several board members said when interviewed last week that scheduling conflicts have prevented them from meeting.

Tablack said commissioners had asked the data processing and information technology departments to concentrate on two items: updating the county's Web site and consolidating the county's disparate phone systems into one.

Two-phase plan

Stanec spent many hours working with Cboss Community Network of Boardman working out a $54,253 deal the commissioners agreed to Thursday.

The two-phase plan will provide an integrated, comprehensive Web site for all county departments.

Stanec said the county has varying sites on the Internet. Phase one would consolidate all the sites into one presence and allow departments to update, add and edit content as needed.

Phase two would implement additional services now lacking on the Web site, he added.

In a letter to Stanec, Jenny Hammond of Cboss explained that the company would create a standard template that would control the look and feel for the main site and its links or sub-sites.

Tablack said short- and long-term goals were set and interviews held to hire a telecommunications director to put the phone consolidation plan in place.

Money-saver

Last week, Stanec said consolidating all county phone services under a master agreement with one provider could provide an estimated savings of $1.2 million over a seven-year period. That agreement remains pending, waiting for DPB approval.

"I believe this is political. Artificial barriers are being put up to keep the data processing board from meeting," Tablack said. "After all, in government, more is said than done.

"We've explained to commissioners this impasse with the board. Ludt and Vivo have been cooperative. The problem has been with the remaining members. There has been a change in the [county's] political landscape."

A meeting this week was canceled because prior commitments by Reardon, Gerberry, Sciortino and McCabe did not allow them to attend. Tablack said he's tried to arrange a DPB meeting since the end of April.

Stanec said that because the board hasn't met so far this year, the county has lost $200,000 by not consolidating phone services, and is actually is paying more because phone contracts have expired and haven't been renewed.

Take back authority

Tablack asked the commissioners to take back authority from the data processing board and approve individual contracts and others for emergency needs as they arise. He cited the Cboss agreement as an example of how the commissioners can approve such pacts.

He added some board members also are angry and hostile over the possibility of their phone usage records being made public. Stanec said the real issue is having the IT department work on merging voice and data and upgrading the county's Web site.

Tablack added, however, that county officials need to maintain a sensitivity to public perception about the use of county property. He said that perception has validity, but that some board members are putting too much weight to that issue.

Tablack said the bottom line is that the IT and data processing departments have more than upheld their end of the bargain, but their efforts have gone unrequited.

Tablack added that with Stanec leaving Monday, he's losing a person of considerable knowledge and skill, whose technology expertise will be difficult to replace. Stanec has accepted a job in West Palm Beach, Fla. Jake Williams will take over as the county's interim IT director.




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