May 16, 2004

Computing at Town Hall

The Town Board had The Computing Center review its computer usage, and the board briefly discussed the report (625KB PDF) at the very end of their meeting on Thursday.

Board members Christofferson and Stelick were concerned with the costs of the proposed improvements. Computers can sometimes seem like an ever-expanding budget black hole, and the numbers in the report add up quickly. $3789 for a server is a substantial cost, as is the $3600 for backup hardware and software. The cost for the Windows 2003 Small Business Server software with 15 licenses to run it is unspecified - "purchase this off state contract" - but would be around $1500 if bought through more ordinary channels. It also discusses the prospect of centralizing email, as the town currently uses a variety of addresses.

It is a lot of money, and I'd encourage the board to look closely at how they would use the server and how much of a server they really need, but at the same time, having minimal security and no separate backup is a large problem that needs to be addressed. Admittedly, I haven't poured time into my home network to address those things, but I'm not maintaining the same kinds of records.

I asked Town Clerk Bambi Hollenbeck about the computers that seem to be spreading across Town Hall. She said the office had computerized since she became clerk, and that Dryden, like other town clerks in Tompkins County, is running dedicated software from Williamson Law. The DEC also provides a separate computer for issuing licenses.

I have no idea what the proposed new Town Hall will look like, but it might be useful to give visitors a computer for access to information about the town like maps, application forms, event calendars, etc. Done badly it would probably just annoy people and cost money, but done right it might take some question-answering off the clerk's and other offices.

Update: modified the story to make it clear that other towns in the county, not the county itself, are using Williamson Law software.

Posted by simon at May 16, 2004 1:23 PM in ,
Note on photos