IT department asks for big ticket items in City Budget

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By Rachel Madison

A workshop to discuss budget requests for the City of Liberty Hill’s general administration and municipal court highlighted a couple of big asks from the City IT department, including a 25,000-watt generator and an attached 100-gallon propane tank.

IT Director Randy Hodges said a generator for the IT department is needed because his department is the hub of the City.

“We have direct fiber going to every building,” he said. “Everything runs into our building and we control it from there. If City Hall goes down, then the police department goes down and the court goes down.”

The main reason for that is lack of power, Hodges said, so if the IT department can install a 25,000-watt generator with an attached 100-gallon vertical propane tank, the City would be able to function off of that for four to five days. Hodges said the quote for the generator itself is approximately $9,000 and will come with a seven-year replacement warranty. Cost of the propane tank and labor to install the system is estimated to be $4,450, Hodges said, for a total of $13,450.

“It will be tied in and will run if the power goes out,” he said. “I think it’s a big need for the city right now. Battery backups hold us for 20 minutes and then we’re done as of now.”

Council member Chris Pezold added that the city could also use the generator to provide a warm space for the community in the case of another event like February’s ice storm, which the rest of the council agreed was a good idea.

The rest of the IT department’s budget request totals $23,448 and includes asks for various security software programs as well as hardware backup items.

“What I have [in this request] is typical hardware backups in case something goes down,” Hodges said. “I like to have redundancy around in case something crashes. Then I can replace it right away. I like to have at least three or four extra computers in case something goes down.”

Software Hodges is requesting includes a program called Intercept X for every city computer, which prevents ransomware attacks.

“If you open an email and it has ransomware in our network, this program literally reverses the process within milliseconds and locks the computer down,” Hodges said.

Access control equipment and server protection software were also included in the budget request, which Hodges said is necessary to keep things running smoothly.

There was $6,000 worth of access control equipment damaged in a lightning surge earlier this year, which insurance will be covering and will reduce the budget ask.

“This really is under a normal IT budget,” Hodges said. “About a year ago we replaced every computer. Everything we have is new. What we are looking at is add ons. It’s a quarter of what we did last year. The only big add on we had was the generator, but it’ll still be less than we spent last year.”

According to Hodges, the budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year was $28,084.

City Administrator Lacie Hale said the rest of the administration budget is not asking for any major expenditures, including not asking for an additional positions or trainings.

“Probably in August we will come back to talk about personnel and salaries, but as far as any administration costs, we are not asking for anything,” she said. “It’s pretty cut and dry.”

Tracy Ventura, municipal court administrator for the city, said she is also not asking for any big additions in her budget for this upcoming year.

“We do have a backlog of about seven to eight jury trials pending, which ties into my request for more money from the prosecution line item,” Ventura said. “In my proposed budget report, as far as our expenses, the biggest add is the prosecution line item. When we had an in-house attorney that was being paid with salary, but now that I have a prosecutor that comes in, that’s a direct bill we get from the law firm. That increased up to $15,000 from $8,000.”

Ventura also asked the Council to unfreeze the position of the deputy clerk, because she needs help with administrative duties. In addition, education and professional development trainings were also requested, because it is required for court clerks to stay current on their continuing education. Hale said this amount is roughly $1,500 per employee.

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