County council agrees to shift money to cover IT costs

An announcement that might beef up Bartholomew County’s one-person, in-house information technology department is expected within a few weeks, county commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

However, permanent decisions regarding how much county government can rely on its own staff — rather than outside vendors — to perform information technology services may not be made until late summer, said Lienhoop, who succeeded Rick Flohr as commissioners chairman.

On Tuesday, the Bartholomew County Council agreed to Lienhoop’s request to move $60,000 earmarked for information technology department salaries to cover three months worth of contracting expenses with Sharp Business Services.

But Lienhoop told the council he’s not only concerned about the expense, but also with complaints that Sharp representatives are not processing work as quickly as administrators and county employees prefer.

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“We do need some staff members versus contracting everything out (to a private company),” Lienhoop said after the meeting.

Sharp was brought in after the final remaining employee of what was once a five-member county information technology staff left his position at the end of August.

“When we hired them, the house was on fire and burning fast,” Lienhoop said. “We didn’t know how long we would need them.”

A variety of reasons that range from salary issues to a perceived lack of leadership were cited by former department workers as reasons for leaving.

In what was described as a stop-gap measure, the commissioners agreed in September to pay Sharp $9,800 to cover 144 hours of help-desk computer services, with an additional $2,500 to cover 20 hours of on-call work.

But after the Oct. 31 hiring of Scott Mayes as county information technology director, who is currently working with Sharp personnel, the crisis began to stabilize, Lienhoop said.

During the past few months, the commissioners have repeatedly stated their desire to have a balance of in-house staff and outside contractors handling technology matters, in order to avoid the consequences of another potential staff exodus.

The commissioners hope to renegotiate a lower cost with Sharp, which is contracted to provide information technology services for the county until the end of September, Lienhoop said.

New council officers

Laura DeDomenic was elected president of the Bartholomew County Council for 2017 during Tuesday’s annual organizational meeting.

Although the first-term Republican and businesswoman was chosen to succeed Bill Lentz in the leadership role, Lentz accepted the position of council president pro-tem.

That means he will lead meetings in the event of DeDomenic’s absence.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.