CLINTON — Members of the Clinton City Council Committee of the Whole this week discussed the potential need for the Clinton County Communications Commission to institute a purchasing policy.

At-Large Councilman Mark Vulich requested the issue discussion. City Administrator Gary Boden said the topic related to a $45,000 funding request from commission member and Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy in February to evaluate and upgrade a computer system. Boden said a meeting was held with consultants in August to review problems with the system. He added that there is one person in the Information Technology Department who takes care of IT problems for the city and law center.

Boden advised that the project could cost $150,000 and stated the commission has no purchasing policy. He noted the request for the discussion of instituting a commission purchasing policy was brought about because of recent council talks regarding the city’s purchasing policy. He commented the commission members might want to include a purchasing policy in the 28E Agreement so those members can have a say in spending for the commission. Boden said he believed two local consulting firms were contacted about the proposed IT study and concerns had arisen that other firms were not contacted and if there were a purchasing policy, a Request For Qualifications could have been solicited from multiple firms. He remarked that one of the firms complained that they were not treated fairly in the solicitation process.

Discussion continued following a motion and second to direct City Attorney Matt Brisch to enter into negotiations with the Communications Commission to adopt a purchasing policy. Ward 4 Councilman Rodger Holm asked Brisch to comment on the issue.

Brisch said the 28E Agreement is made up of a number of parties and he had not investigated the issue yet and determined how members feel about instituting a purchasing policy. Boden stated that County Attorney Mike Wolf represents the commission. Boden noted he spoke with Wolf earlier in the day and Wolf said the purchasing of consulting services had been done according to state statutes and county purchasing standards.

Guy, who serves the commission as assistant director of Communications, said the system problem relates to the software used by the members. He said that because of recurring connectivity problems and reliability issues, the city of DeWitt opted out of utilizing the software earlier this year. Guy said he thinks the commission members feel a dedicated IT person is needed to take care of the system. He noted he had been advised that with city personnel unable to spare the time, the best idea would be to outsource the work to a firm.

Guy said he took exception to the statement a complaint about the solicitation process had been made, commenting the complainant said not enough information regarding the system problems had been provided. Guy said the commission allowed “sniffers” to be placed on the system so the firms could determine the extent of the problem. Guy told the committee that the commission's main concern is to secure the system and keep it from “going down.” He said that within the last week, law enforcement officials were not able to use the system and were “dead in the water” with regard to using system programs. He said the system goes down without warning and officials have been dealing with the problem for the past five years.

“My staff is at a fevered pitch of frustration,” Guy said.

He advised that access to system information is essential for law enforcement duties, including access to the National Crime Information Center. Guy said he understands the problem to be with connectivity issues, such as with outlying areas and downloading information to squad car computers. He noted that all tickets and accident reports are done electronically. Guy said that years ago, an IT person was employed to assist with law enforcement computer systems, but the position was cut due to budget cuts and commented that none of the commission members have the ability to hire a dedicated IT person on their own.

Vulich said he realizes the police department has a problem, but stated it goes past a time and materials contract when new hardware and servers are purchased. Vulich advised he was not saying it was the “wrong thing to do” but said he would like more information on the issue.

At-Large Councilman Ron Mallicoat said whatever the problem, it did not change the fact that the 28E Agreement should include a purchasing policy.

He said that like any intergovernmental agency, the purchasing policy should be standardized. Boden reiterated that Wolf advised the purchasing process had been completed according to county procedures.

Guy remarked that the commission merely wants to make sure the system is up and running and said he would defer to the experts to determine who was to perform the work and how.

Brisch said he was not sure what policies the commission may have and said he could speak with the entities involved with the commission. He advised that the policy would have to be something all the entities could agree on.

Mallicoat suggested the city attorney get clarification on what policy the commission may have and report back to the committee at a future meeting. Mayor LaMetta Wynn, a member of the commission, said a meeting of the commission could be called if needed to discuss the issue.

A motion to direct Brisch to review the commission's 28E Agreement and report back to the Committee of the Whole was approved.

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