Newtown Township

Technology Committee

Minutes of the meeting of November 30, 2010

The Newtown Township Technology Committee met on November 30, 2010 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were Chairman Edward Lipski, Vice Chairman Anand Shukla and member Lynne Brennan. Also in attendance were Supervisor Michael Gallagher and Township Technology Consultant Allen Herr.

Call to Order: Mr. Lipski called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.

New Business

Developing a 3, 5, and 7 year IT Plan for the Township: Mr. Lipski provided the members with copies of a Strategic Goals document prepared by SUNY Albany’s Information Technology department. He suggested that the Committee review this document and begin to draft a similar document for the Township as both a guide for the future and a tool to augment technology budget planning and possibly for seeking grants. Any consideration of the other projects the Committee had discussed, such as improving the Web site, developing a site for the Tax Collector, streaming video of Township meetings, enhanced use of technology during Township broadcasts, could be part of this long term plan.

Ms. Brennan suggested that in considering a long term technology plan, each action item should have two goals, serving the Township staff and serving the residents. She noted as an example that the work done for the Park and Recreation Department helped the Township staff with an on-line presence and with record keeping, and also provided the community with on-line registration for programs. She suggested that before starting on a plan, the Committee members should meet with the various departments to learn what their technology uses are now and what they might need going forward.

Recommendations for Equipment Replacement Cycles: Mr. Herr said that within the Township’s staff there are different levels of sophistication with the use of technology. He briefly outlined the four areas using different technologies:

    • Finance/ using an AMS financial package. This is an Alpha operating system provided and serviced by a local vendor

    • Administration/Park and Recreation/ using Microsoft office (ten employees have begun using open source software this week.)

    • Police/ using Alert, which is a Pennsylvania based police application. Alert is used by about 1/3 of the State’s police departments.

    • Codes/ using a package for codes and permits.

    • Document management uses DocStar.

Mr. Herr explained that ten employees have begun using open source software this week as a test. It is free, and is similar in appearance to Microsoft Office 2000. There are some difficulties to be worked out by the police secretary and the recreation programmer. The Township is hoping to expand the use of the open source software because of the costs associated with licensing and upgrading Office.

Ms. Brennan asked about compatibility with the community.

Mr. Herr said that the software should be compatible with Microsoft. There would still be some Microsoft Office availability to Township employees, as certain functions of the various departments require the use of Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint.

Mr. Herr reviewed the infrastructure, noting that the entire campus has fiber optic cable, with some additional copper wiring available.

  • There are six servers, including the DocStar server. The DocStar server is the oldest, at six years old. It is beginning to show problems.

  • The Police Department has its own server. The squad cars have cellular internet access using mobile data terminals. All have recently been upgraded using a grant from Homeland Security.

  • The Township Web site is hosted externally but managed internally. It is a Dreamweaver site, which is difficult to maintain.

  • Internet access is through Comcast, with PA-Tech as a back-up. There are 29 channels for voice.

  • Video has a separate connection with Comcast. There is also a Verizon connection to provide public service feeds to Verizon customers.

  • PEG Central is now providing internet video, hosted off-site for a yearly fee.

Mr. Herr said that there is conventional daily back-up to tape. File servers are backed up daily. The back-ups are not encrypted.

There is no disaster recovery plan for technology. Mr. Herr said that some disaster recovery and protection have no costs associated; they are procedural.

Mr. Lipski suggested that this should be part of the IT Plan. The Committee should investigate each department’s tolerance for downtime.

Mr. Herr said that the current replacement plan calls for ten new work stations this year, with an average turn around of every five years. The new stations are installed by Beth in the technology department

The new building only has Wi-Fi in the main meeting room. It can only be accessed privately. The building is wired for wireless access. Mr. Herr suggested that there should be two zones for public and for private access.

Mr. Gallagher said that this should be part of the budget for the construction of the new building.

Replacement or Upgrade of Docstar: Mr. Herr explained that the existing Docstar server seems to be having problems. It should be replaced. Once it is replaced, Docstar would be upgraded. The upgrade would not have an additional cost; it is part of tech support already provided.

Mr. Gallagher said that the Supervisors are considering removing this upgrade from the budget. It had not been understood that the server is showing signs that it needs to be replaced. The Board had wrongly assumed that the new server was needed only in order to upgrade Docstar, not that the new server is needed because the existing one is having problems.

Mr. Herr said that he would estimate that a new server to replace the existing Docstar server would cost under $6000, including licensing and labor. This server could be part of a disaster recovery plan.

Mr. Gallagher noted that the Township has a disaster recovery plan which does not include technology. Fire Marshal Don Harris oversees the plan.

Letters of re-appointment: The recording secretary reminded the members that their appointments are annual. If they wish to continue on the committee, letters of interest should be sent to the Township Manager at joec@twp.newtown.pa.us. Appointments are made at the Board reorganization meeting on January 3, 2010.

Mr. Lipski asked the members to consider serving as chairman next year.

Mr. Lipski noted that the next regular meeting date would be Tuesday, December 28, 2010. As this is a holiday week, he urged the members to let the recording secretary know as early as possible whether they would be available to attend.

 

Respectfully Submitted:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary