Technology remains top priority for township in 2015

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 28, 2015


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Township officials continue to make progress toward one of their biggest goals from the previous year: upgrading the information technology systems used at facilities all over the township.

On Jan. 14, Beth Case, president of BPI Information Systems, gave a presentation to the Macomb Township Board of Trustees covering all the IT improvements that her company helped the township implement in 2014. She also outlined some of the IT projects that have been identified for this year and how BPI plans to help officials accomplish them.

According to Case, the document that she handed the board members “shows the projects that we identified last March for the coming year — and every one of those projects has been completed.”

These projects included expanding the township’s storage area network, instituting an IT disaster recovery plan, conforming to licensing requirements, establishing a desktop computer standard, building a computer image and spares for swaps, reducing duplicate servers, moving to enterprise server monitoring, and evaluating the township’s wide area network design and resiliency.

BPI also conducted a risk analysis of different IT functions, singling out high-risk areas such as potential failures of the township’s internet service, power supply, data backup system, computers, servers, routers and content filters.

As Case told the board, between when the study was conducted last spring and the end of 2014, “you can see a dramatic reduction in risk, so we’re very excited about that.”

One of the upgrades that BPI implemented in this area, Case said, was a help desk allowing the company to receive service requests and gather data. Between March 28 and Dec. 31, 2014, BPI addressed a total of 962 service requests — both preplanned, budgeted IT “projects” and “tickets” to correct problems reported by employees.

Case then listed some of the IT improvement goals that BPI plans to work on over the coming year. These include increasing security to the township’s technology devices, updating some of its key computer applications, bringing its wireless network up to the industry standard, and providing weekly management reports on the health of its servers, routers and firewalls.

“We’re applying tools that allow us to proactively manage that technology and deal with potential failures before they occur,” Case explained. “It’s also a way for us to make certain that only authorized people are accessing critical devices.”

In addition, BPI will be helping officials address the need for greater data encryption, improving resident services on the township website, providing greater protection against data loss, configuring the township’s wireless authentication, utilizing secure cloud technology, and integrating the disaster recovery plan of the Clerk’s Office with that of the IT Department. Another top priority will be better managing the mobile devices used by township employees when outside the office.

“More and more people are using their cellphones as critical devices and applications,” Case noted. “It’s important that we take those mobile phones and put them under the umbrella of the security that we have for the network. … We want to make certain that if someone is using a cellphone to access data here at the township, that they do it with a secure login and a secure password.”

Trustee Dino Bucci commended Case and her company for helping the township provide better services for residents and resolve many of its internal IT problems. He noted that Case has been “getting rave reviews” for the regular meetings that she holds with the township staff, but he still had one nagging worry that he wanted to address with her.

“Here’s my biggest concern,” Bucci said. “When your contract comes to an end, are we still going to be dependent upon you, or are we going to be somewhat self-sufficient with all these things that you’re doing for the township?”

Case responded by assuring Bucci that BPI will make sure that township officials are able to navigate this new technology on their own.

“There are a number of things that we have put in place already (because) we believe in your independence,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve given all of the passwords to the supervisor. So they belong to the township, and the township has all of the passwords to these critical devices. Another thing that we’re doing is we’re documenting everything.”

As an example, she described a security camera upgrade that BPI recently installed for the township, in which all the data files are stored on a server within the IT Department.

“So if my engineer got hit by a bus tomorrow,” Case said, “and there was something you needed to know about the security cameras — boring things like where the IP address is, how it’s configured, where it’s physically located — that documentation is in a central location and can be accessed very easily.”

Board gives itself more prep time
Later in the meeting, Bucci brought up an issue with the rest of the board that he hoped to resolve. In the interest of giving board members more time to review agenda items before each regular board meeting, he made a motion requesting that they all receive their packets seven days prior to a meeting, rather than just five. The board voted unanimously in favor of this motion.

According to Bucci, “As we all know, it’s getting a little busy around here these days. … I was just informed today that board action is the reason why we receive our packets on Friday and (why) they are prepared on Thursday. Unfortunately … that’s not enough time in which to do our job, to ask questions, to get things done, to meet with board members, to meet with department heads, to meet with constituents, to meet with developers. It’s just not enough time.”

Bucci contended that although it may cause complications for some of the township staff, by getting their packets two days earlier, board members will be better prepared for each meeting.

“I believe this gives us — I still don’t think it’s an adequate amount of time — but it’s a whole lot more (time) than we have gotten. I know that this puts a little bit of strain on the department heads, as well as the employees … but we all have to pull together to try to get the information done correctly, and we (the board) need enough time to make the right decisions.”

While he supported Bucci’s motion, Clerk Michael Koehs informed the board that this change could create another potential problem, even as it solved the one that Bucci cited.

“The other thing we have to remember is one of the reasons why in the past (the packet deadline) was pushed forward was to close the window for (agenda) add-ons,” he said. “We can get them to you three months prior to a meeting, but you’ll probably get a lot of add-ons if we do that. So what I’m saying is that when you pull one end of the rope, the other end moves at the same time.”

However, Bucci was OK with that compromise, as he felt that it was the lesser of two evils for the board to have to manage.

“Most board members don’t like add-ons, because again, they don’t give us enough time to do our (due diligence),” he said. “But … if there’s an essential function of this township that needs to be addressed, we will address it. I mean, come on — this is common sense here. But if a certain, let’s say, piece of equipment needs to be purchased, they’ll just have to wait another two weeks.”