Tech upgrades in the cards for the County offices
By LPR Staff
A series of extensive presentations and question-and-answer periods were the order of the day during a special called meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court on Monday. Chief among examined topics was the expansion of the County’s current communications systems and online activity.
According to resear
ch performed recently by representatives of Time Warner Cable Business Class, which provides much of the broadband access for Caldwell County, operations have grown in the last five years to the point where the current systems utilized by the County are no longer adequate.
“At this point, it takes nearly a week to complete a backup, said Brian Beresford, a TWCBC representative who works closely with the County. “We’ve done tests on this, and have examined the possibility of increasing your broadband flowthrough, to decrease that time.”
Beresford said it was ill-advised for the County to be in a position where current backups of information do not exist, and said a server crash could be a huge problem for county staff.
“At this point, because it’s taking more than a week to back up, you don’t have an actual, accurate backup,” he said. “Even your backed up information is out of date because it’s taking so long.”
As a solution, Beresford suggested the County expand their broadband access by more than 100 times, effectively “increasing the size of the pipe” through which the information flows.
Though the cost of such an upgrade would be considerable, upwards of $4,500 per month, a change could allow for cost reductions in other areas which would offset the difference.
According to Assistant County Auditor Liz Mondine, a change in the County’s broadband access could also allow for the installation of a voice-over-IP (internet based) telephone system, that would cut the County’s current landline costs by nearly $6,000 per month.
Mondine said she has been working not only with TWCBC, but also with Mitel, a telephone service provider, to determine the best course of action for replacement for the County’s phone systems, many of which are antiquated and, as she said, running on borrowed time.
The presentations made by TWCBC and Mitel were strictly for informational purposes, and the Court did not make a decision about moving forward.
However, County Judge Tom Bonn noted his commitment to upgrading the County’s technology.
“[These things] move fast, and they are expensive,” he said. “We have to do what we can when we can, in order to provide better service for our taxpayers.”
After several months of searching, the County has hired a permanent Veterans Service Officer.
Despite concerns expressed by Commissioners Neto Madrigal and Joe Roland, as well as retired VSO Larry Corpus, the Court voted 3-2 to offer the position, which has been held in an interim status by Anna Wagner since October, to David Francis.
According to Commissioner Fred Buchholtz, who along with Stuart Carter and George Duran served on a selection committee to advise the Commissioners about the appointment, four candidates were interviewed via panel and Francis emerged as the top choice for the position.
Roland and Madrigal said they were uncomfortable with the recommendation because they had not been given the opportunity to meet with the four finalists, chosen from 15 initial applicants. Additionally, they said, they were unsure about the interview process, because they noticed questions that were weighted differently from candidate to candidate.
“I just don’t understand how, with some of these questions, the candidates gave the same answers and some got a score of ‘4’ and others got a score of ‘2,’” Madrigal said. “If they were giving the same answer, shouldn’t that have been the same score?”
Buchholtz explained that different members of the interview panel weighted the questions differently, but that total scoring was not biased from candidate to candidate.
Corpus, who held the position of Veterans Service Officer for 14 years before his retirement in 2010, asked the Court whether they felt certain that members of the panel understood the position and the responsibilities it entailed.
“I see the basic requirements, but when you’re choosing someone, you want someone that has more than those basic qualities,” he said. “I think that too much attention was paid to the human resources and public relations aspects, and maybe not enough to the other responsibilities that come with the job. You need to know how the officer is going to prioritize, and you need to know whether the officer knows the difference between working for the VA and working for the veterans.”
Corpus said he was concerned that the interviewing process was kept under wraps, and that at least two local veterans’ organizations were not represented in the interview panel.
In the end, the Court voted 3-2 to approve Francis’s employment. Madrigal and Roland voted against the appointment in a roll-call voice vote.
In other business, the Court expressed an intention to move forward with the second phase of an energy grant that will help update air conditioning units at the Caldwell County Judicial Annex.
As renovations on the beleaguered building move forward, Caldwell County Maintenance Supervisor Curtis Weber has asked repeatedly that the air conditioning units currently located on the building’s roof be moved to the ground.
Last week, Weber worked with an area expert to determine a “scope of work” for the project, which will be funded through a Federal energy grant.
Several of the existing air conditioning units, Weber said, have outlived their expected lifespan, and should be replaced anyway. Others, though still operational, need maintenance.
The benefit of bringing those units from the roof of the Annex to the ground, Weber said, will be the reduction of wear and tear on the soon-to-be-replaced roof of the building, a project which has been approved by the Commissioners, but which has stalled pending a decision about the air conditioning.
The County will seek bids on the work in the near future.
In brief news:
The Commissioners opted to leave an outdoor burning ban in place. High winds and dry conditions have left the county dry and ripe for grass fires, and Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Parker reminds residents that extreme caution should be used with regard to fire safety.
In working toward completing a grant process that will help with renovations at the Caldwell County Jail, the Court approved a Memorandum of Understanding committing to adhere to the Texas Department of Transportation’s Federally-approved disadvantaged business enterprise program.
The County paid bills in the amount of $6,587.40.
The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the conference room at the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and interested parties are encouraged to attend and participate.