Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Council Splits on IT Decision

Dragging the city out of the technological Stone Age is a dire necessity, City Council members agreed, but a discussion Monday revealed a major rift on how to proceed.

At issue is the establishment by ordinance of the title of director of data processing, with a maximum salary of $130,400. As a full house of citizens looked on in City Hall Library, council members wrangled over whether to put the ordinance up for a final vote next week or to wait for more facts on the total cost of creating an information technology department.

The administration is pushing passage of the ordinance and Council President Rashid Burney and Councilmen William Reid and Elliot Simmons agree. But council members Annie McWilliams, Cory Storch and Adrian Mapp expressed hesitation to put a director in place without more information. City Administrator Marc Dashield said he will be able to provide more of a bottom line by the end of March.

The administration is calling for the IT department to be included in the FY 2009 budget, which is currently stalled and may not be passed until April. The costs of the new department would have to be offset by cuts in the budget, which has already been hashed over for months. The bulk of expenses for 2009 has already been paid out in temporary or emergency appropriations in day-to-day costs of running the city, so it is unclear how much would be left to cut in the waning months of the fiscal year that ends June 30.

In her report on a meeting of the council’s IT committee, McWilliams said members feel a “high-level view” of costs for the new department must be given, including expenses for additional staff and training. The committee wants the council to have its own presence on the city web site, which is still sketchy after three years of tinkering by the administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs.

McWilliams said no other municipality in Union County has an IT director, but Dashield said the size of Plainfield in the county must be taken into account. In bolstering his case for swift passage of the ordinance, Dashield said, “We are so far behind. We just got e-mail last year. There is a void here that has to be filled.”

The debate over whether to hold up the ordinance or pass it while awaiting more information ended when Councilwoman Linda Carter sided with members who want it up for a vote next Monday.

“I’m fine with moving it forward,” she said, noting the city has been behind for years on IT technology. “Waiting a couple weeks is not going to gain us anything.”

But turning to Dashield, she said, “Can you make me happy by Monday?”

Dashield said he needed time to “do it right.”

The salary proposed for the new director would be more than any city cabinet member makes, except for the corporation counsel, fueling a concern that someone is waiting in the wings for the job. Carter asked how the council will know whether someone one has been hired, but Dashield said the issue will be “is there any money to pay the person.”

Council wariness may stem from the hiring last year of Douglas Peck as finance director, with an unprecedented $12,000 stipend to relocate from Ohio. Peck was later abruptly dismissed in the midst of budget talks. The council had given advice and consent to the hiring, but may not have any such say over hiring of an IT director.

The regular council meeting will be 8 p.m. Monday in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just like Plainfield - drag their feet - afraid to make the tough decisions.

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many have been saying that the position will be filled by Chris Payne who is on his way out of the schools due to the dissatisfaction over him. There is absolutely no reason to create an IT position right now. There are scores of consultants who can take on this sort of project, and the councilors know this. Burney and Carter used to work at AT&T, for goodness sake. They know that there are many professionals out there who would be willing to work on a contract basis. They have let this administration do whatever it wants for too long. They all signed off on McGee, Peck, Daniels at a waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars and a P2P contract for McGee's friend. If DaShields is sooo much in a hurry for this position, you can believe there is someone waiting in the wings. The council knows this and should not trust an administration that has been evasive and even dishonest in its dealings.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$6M dollars for new roads. New IT Director. When will Plainfield's spending spree stop. We don't have any money and our taxes keep going up. When will we stop? Now I hear they want new cop cars. What is wrong with the old ones? Stop spending Plainfield. Everyone else has.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The salary for the IT Director is actually way below that in the private sector, which leads me to believe that is why most municipalities are inefficient. They do not see the value in shared knowledge and services.

Many municipalities have outsourced the IT department. If you think getting information employees who work with the IT director will be difficult, wait until you bring in an outsider and see how much accurate info you will get, and how much money you will waste getting that info.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:51am is right. I don't think we have $6M to spend on roads. Let's look for grants - we all know they are out there. I hope the Council has a backbone and says "no" to all the road construction projects.

If not, I may have to move. Plainfield is just too expensive.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:06 a.m. What is the basis of your statement that there is some sort of dissatisfaction with Chris Payne?

The statement is reckless and has no basis

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The need for an IT director has not be properly communicated because no one has stopped to even think about what is needed in Plainfield. You do not need an IT director to post meeting minutes, keep the website up to date with agendas, meeting dates, etc. Town Council needs to stand up and not allow this last minute "The Sky will Fall!" notion posed by CC. There is no doubt that Plainfield is in somewhat of the dark ages with respect to technology but I can assure you it isn't because they don't have an IT director. McWilliams is right on track in demanding to see a comprehensive plan before giving her approval. For CC to say they need to time to get it righ??? Huh??? I thought this was a need three years ago. If it was such a need you shouldn't have so much difficulty in providing adequate information.
Also, Town Council needs to look at reducing the budget not increasing it. Even a 2% in this climate with the additonal % burdened on our children is problematic. Town Council - PLEASE STAND UP FOR THOSE WHO VOTED YOU IN - MORE IMPORTANTLY DO WHAT IS RIGHT BY THE RESIDENT'S!

9:43 AM  

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