Council in the Nabe
Council President Rashid Burney said he was pleased at the turnout, which fluctuated over the evening but hit a high of 35 attendees at one point, according to Burney. Most of the crowd appeared to be regulars or city staffers, but Burney said he was pleased to see some new faces at the Fourth Ward visit.
Future neighborhood stops will be at Emerson Community School in the First Ward, Hubbard Middle School in the Third Ward and Cook Elementary School in the Second Ward.
The meeting was heavy on discussion items and committee reports, too many to detail in one blog post.
A key item was City Administrator Marc Dashield's proposal to hire an information technology director within the 2009 budget year that ends June 30. Dashield hoped to see it happen by April, saying the city has several new technology systems that need to be coordinated as soon as possible. At present, there is only one fulltime person who gives "help desk" support, he said.
The administration must put together an ordinance establishing the new title and it must be passed on two readings befor taking effect 20 days later. Dashield is targeting the next voting meeting on Feb. 17 for first reading, after receiving tentative approval from council members who said they also want the administration to look into shared services as an alternative.
The city had a brief shared services plan with the school district last year, but it was not of the scope Dashield outlined Monday. The new director would not only support and upgrade city technology, but would also train employees, develop policies and procedures and create a long range technology plan, Dashield said. There is also a need to integrate technology into business processes, he said, and the director would also oversee TV74, the local municipal channel.
Burney said a citizens' budget advisory last year urged hiring of an IT director, and resident Jeanette Criscione, who served on the committee, said the reasons were "everything that Marc just said." She said she was surprised to learn of the city's lack of technological integration.
In budget talks last fall, Dashield said the average salary for IT directors was $147,000. In answer to Councilman Adrian Mapp Monday, Dashield did not indicate a suggested salary, but said the department could be started in the current budget year by moving $50,000 in funds, with the full-year cost to kick in for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The FY 2009 city budget is still up in the air due to state and federal uncertainties. Meanwhile, to date the city has expended more than seven months' worth of salaries and expenses and has made emergency appropriations for March and April. But Dashield said the city needs an IT director now to manage the "migration" of systems.
Burney said he did not doubt the need.
"The inefficiencies we have are unexcusable," he said, but called for moving forward while still gathering more information on options.
The council's next meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court.