Next council to consider hiring in-house IT expert

 

Michael Richardson: Hay River’s senior administrative officer has recommended changes in the way the municipality gets its information technology services.

Some Hay River residents are concerned a recommendation from the town’s senior administrative officer Michael Richardson could see the municipality paying an extra $125,000-$140,000 for information technology (IT) services for over half of 2013 on top of its current contract with a local company.At the Sept. 24 council meeting, Richardson outlined his recommendations, which include hiring an in-house information technology (IT) expert, and eventually reducing the city’s reliance on a contract with IT company ArcTech.

Richardson’s recommendation would see the town looking to hire an in-house IT staff member sometime in April 2013. It also recommends the town extend its current contract with ArcTech until the end of 2013, meaning there could be an overlap of up to seven or eight months. After that, the in-house staff member would handle around 80 per cent of the IT requirements, with the rest contracted out.

Richardson said hiring an in-house IT staff member would give the town more resiliency in the IT department, and make it less dependent on a contractor that could change its scope or contract terms without warning.

Having an internal position would give us the flexibility we need without being hit with scope changes or extra fees that we are liable to be hit with right now,” he said. “I’m not saying that it’s happening now, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t. If the current IT provider wasn’t able to provide those services for whatever reason, we don’t have a plan B.”

The $125,000-$140,000 figure covers what Richardson estimates would be the annual salary costs of an in-house IT staff member. There is a total of $310,000 in IT allocations in the 2012 budget.

The recommendations came after the town commissioned an assessment of its IT services. That assessment came back saying the town is getting good value for its money with ArcTech.

If the town is already getting good value, why fix something that isn’t broken?” said Coun. Dawna O’Brien at the Sept. 24 meeting.

Gwen Robak agrees. In an open letter to mayor and council, Robak pointed out the commissioned report makes no recommendation for an in-house IT staff member. She also said many other businesses in Hay River rely on ArcTech’s services, and, if the town cut back its contract, the company could be forced to relocate.

Robak said her company, Golden Management Strategies, relies on ArcTech’s services and “it could be a potential job loss of two full-time and three part-time positions. Hay River can’t afford any more job losses right now.”

Council decided to table the decision until after the coming municipal election, with the recommendation that the mayoral and council candidates seek input from the community.

Mayoral candidate Andrew Cassidy said, at this point, it’s too early to make a decision about the recommendation.

I have looked over the recommendation. Basically, I’m undecided,” he said. “We do know how much it costs for current IT services, and a report from a third party that has come in and said, ‘You’re needs are getting met. You’re not getting a Cadillac, but you’re getting a good value vehicle.”

Cassidy also noted that hiring staff members would mean unionized contracts, which can lead to creeping costs through overtime pay and any after-hours work that needed to be done.

Mayoral candidate Brian Lefebvre declined to comment on the issue.

– Jesse Winter