Harvey County commissioners stood at a proverbial crossroads on Monday. With change coming to the information technology (IT) department, they had two choices to consider — either increase staff and expertise on site or outsource IT services to a vendor.
Ultimately, the commission voted in favor of entering into an agreement with Gilmore Solutions out of Sterling. The initial one-year contract will go into effect Oct. 1 set at cost of $15,500 per month for services rendered.
"The dollars just blow my mind, but it's something that has to be done," said commission chair Randy Hague.
County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber pointed to this year's cyberattack as well as the strain on a limited staff as reasons outsourcing IT services was considered. Based on recommended industry standards, the county should have four IT technicians, but the IT Department currently consists of a director, one temporary technician and a contract consultant.
In addition to the limited numbers, Swartzendruber noted the county has faced difficulty maintaining the staffing of that department — particularly in regards to the technician position — so entering into an agreement with an outside company seemed like a good alternative.
Gilmore Solutions currently handles IT services for the cities of Newton, Hesston, Moundridge, Goddard and Sterling, as well as Rice County, so the company is familiar with the type of support Harvey County would need on a daily basis (regarding 911 communications, law enforcement, etc.)
Service is available 24/7, 365 days a year, according to Gilmore Solutions Director of Business Development Chris Schneider. However, IT services offered outside normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) do come at an additional cost — one not covered in the the contract initially, with the first year being viewed as a trial period to gauge the usage.
For the time being, Swartzendruber noted current IT Director LeeAnn Heim will assist in determining if after hours service is needed.
Vacation and leave time also played a role in limiting some of the county's ability to address IT issues, delaying the response time, which Undersheriff Shawn Chapman said can be an issue for deputies while trying to file reports.
"There's lots of times where we've been stuck. It just causes more time for the guys," Chapman said. "There's good days and bad days."
Hague stated a concern about ransomware, given the cyberattack earlier this year, but Swartzendruber said the services offered by Gilmore Solutions would cover the county's entire IT infrastructure — and help in the case of another such incident — and security measures will be implemented to help safeguard the system as well.
Another advantage county treasurer Emily Nichols sees with the new system is the ability to troubleshoot at a much quicker pace — a benefit to her office as she noted customers can react negatively when the system is down and the treasurer's office can't help them.
Given the ever-growing reliance on technology, the commission could see the need for a shift in IT strategy, but with the one-year agreement it also hopes to see more monitoring of both the use and security of the new infrastructure.
"We have an obligation to protect our system," said commissioner Chip Westfall.