Company to help bridge gap due to retirement of IT director in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 12, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The retirement of Information Systems Director Greg Corless in November has prompted St. Clair Shores to investigate the best way to provide information technology to city staff, and services to residents.

In a memo to City Council, City Manager Matthew Coppler explained that he wanted to take the time to re-imagine “this important internal service (that) has a major impact on the ability to provide services to our residents.”

To do so, he brought a plan in front of City Council to contract information technology support services to an outside company for the next year, with that vendor also reviewing the city’s IT systems and structure to provide a comprehensive system guidebook. Part of what an outside company will do, he said, is help the city assess its systems to determine security needs and upgrade opportunities before the city goes out to bid in the next six months to find a permanent vendor to provide IT support to the city.

Through attrition and retirements, the city only has one member of its information technology staff left, Coppler said at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting.

“There’s a number of services that are being supplied by third parties,” he said. “What I am concerned about is our servers, as well as our network, have to be monitored.”

That’s what he recommended would be done by All Covered, a company that provides similar services to the 40th District Court. For a one-time setup fee of $1,000 and a monthly rate of $3,811, the company will provide server management, network device management, help desk and remote support for the city’s network system and devices, and on-site support at an hourly rate. Coppler said about 95% of the work would be handled remotely.

It will cost an additional $11,000 for All Covered to help the city gather the information that will be needed to develop a request for proposals for a permanent IT company to complement the work done by the city’s IT department.

“We will be in a position, within a year, to be able to transition over” to a new company, he explained.

Several members of City Council said they would prefer to see at least some information technology services still provided by a city employee. Coppler explained that he thought St. Clair Shores would end up with a “hybrid type of service.”

He said the city should have four or five employees in the department if it were going to do all IT in-house, which would require St. Clair Shores to hire about three additional employees. But with the size of the city, a model with an outside vendor that could provide help desk services could take care of three-quarters of the problems city employees run into.

“We’re still going to have to provide some support for the servers, the switches, the network appliances we have,” Coppler said. Doing so will allow the city to “refocus those in-house resources we have.”

In-house employees could help roll out new technology within city departments.

“We haven’t had people who are driving the implementation of our technology within the departments,” he said, so employees aren’t taking full advantage of or using software the city has purchased. “We have not done very good at training our employees on software here. (We need to) get our people to use these software systems that we’ve spent a lot of money on.”

By having an outside help desk from an IT vendor, it would take some of the pressure off of in-house staff and reduce the number of employees that would be needed to fully take care of the city’s IT needs, he said.

Councilman Ron Frederick said he appreciated the city having a plan to get a permanent vendor in place so a smooth transition can happen in a year.

“This department becomes more and more important,” he said.

City Council voted 7-0 to approve the contract subject to approval by City Attorney Robert Ihrie.