About a year ago, the Ward County Commission took a leap of faith and formed its own information technology department, reasoning that the move would enable the county to more effectively handle its computer-related needs.
On Tuesday, yet another tie to the "old days" was severed, as the commission voted to end its contract with a service provider at the end of the year.
Prior to Tuesday, the county was paying about $100 per month for each of four servers to be monitored by NRG Technology Services, with which the county had contracted for years through the North Dakota Association of Counties for information technology support.
While NRG has a wide array of diagnostic tools at its disposal, the practicality of contracting with the company for the monitoring is questionable in many instances.
"They monitor (the servers) 24-7, but they only alert us about it during normal business hours," Jason Blowers, the county's information technology administrator, said. "So if something major were to happen to a server, I would not be notified during a weekend. I would be notified by 8 a.m. on Monday, which would be about the same time that any of the courthouse employees would come in and contact me."
Blowers said the county has a newer server with plenty of drive space, so there is little reason to expect major problems in the short term.
Blowers also asked for, and received, permission to transfer some operations off a peripheral, "virtual" server that had been utilized due to a previous installation issue.
The outdated server was used only because it was necessary when Web-based e-mail was enabled for county employees.
Blowers said he had spoken with NRG and agreed to move all the software onto the newer server, where it will remain for the foreseeable future. The move would "standardize and streamline" operations for better results, he said.
"I actually personally believe that if we hadn't had needed the Web-mail access, it actually should have been set up that way from the beginning," Blowers said.
The commission approved that request, meaning that NRG would only be monitoring three servers and saving around $100 per month. Still, Blowers told the board he recommended the county not renew that contract at the end of the year.
"There isn't really any distinct advantage (in keeping the agreement)," Blowers said. "If they were monitoring 24-7, and I was going to get pages or a phone call on the weekend, and I have all weekend to work on it, absolutely. But actually their support is (during) normal business hours, and that's when I'm here."
The commission voted unanimously to follow Blowers' recommendation and discontinue the contract.
In other business:
- The commission approved purchase of three motorgraders and a pickup for the county highway department at a total cost of about $490,000 after trade-ins.
- The commission gave county buildings supervisor Ron Overly permission to purchase a snow plow blade for a pickup at a cost of around $4,500.
- Commission chair Bruce I. Christianson was not present in body, but was in spirit. He attended the meeting via speaker phone from a location that was not disclosed during the meeting. After opening the meeting leading the Pledge of Allegiance, Christianson "passed" the gavel to vice-chairman Jerome Gruenberg to run the proceedings, but remained on the line for the entire meeting and voted on each issue.