County’s IT crisis subsides

Bartholomew County government is reducing its reliance on outside information technology consultants and will cut ties with them this fall.

Late last summer, the county hired the outside contractors after resignations depleted the county’s IT department.

Effective Saturday, the amount being paid to Sharp Business Systems will drop from $19,939 a month to $10,473, Bartholomew County commissioners decided this week.

The county is dropping one of two Sharp employees who have been providing on-site maintenance service since late last summer, commissioner Rick Flohr said.

In addition, the commissioners approved drafting a termination letter declaring that, effective Sept. 13, the county will no longer need Sharp’s services.

That’s a change of direction from last fall, when the commissioners said they preferred a hybrid of in-house staff and consultants to take care of county government computer needs.

However, the commissioners also said in early October those decisions would be determined by the person hired by the county as the new IT depart- ment leader.

A few weeks later, Scott Mayes was hired and told the commissioners the department could handle everyday issues with four full-time employees, Flohr said.

Unless the county provides Sharp a 60-day termination notice, the contract will automatically be renewed, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.

Mayes continues to be the only full-time county IT employee.

But since the county won’t be paying for one of the consultants, funds are available to put a full-time IT person on the county’s payroll, Flohr said.

As that person undergoes on-the-job training, Mayes and Sharp technician James Smith will be responsible for most of the county’s IT work, Flohr said.

When Smith’s services are no longer required late this summer, that will free up more money to hire and train a third employee, the commissioners said.

The county’s goal still is to have a four-member IT staff that includes Mayes, Flohr said. That’s one less specialist than what the county employed when the resignations began.

Personnel problems were sparked by the August 2015 departure of former department director Jim Hartsook. Over the next 14 months, seven employees resigned, including two replacement directors.

While the availability of higher compensation in the private sector was cited as one reason for turnover, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said a number of former IT employees also complained they didn’t feel supported by elected county officials.

After the final remaining employee of what was once a five-member county IT staff quit in September, the commissioner agreed to pay Sharp Business Systems $9,800 to cover 144 hours of help-desk computer services, with an additional $2,500 to cover 20 hours of on-call work.

At that time, the commissioners emphasized they were only hiring Sharp as a stop-gap measure. Sharp employee Danny G. Harman, who worked as a systems administrator for the county from January 2006 to February 2011, was brought in to temporarily manage the department before Mayes began his job Oct. 31.

While the contract with Sharp will be terminated, consulting firms will still occasionally be brought in for special projects and to perform short-term maintenance, Flohr said.

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