Clerk warns commission big bill coming

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Levy County Commission set the date for its first budget workshop for July 2 after its regular meeting for requests for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, but County Clerk Danny Shipp broke out of the gate with a request for $200,000 to rewire the courthouse for more modern computers.

Oh, and he needs new computers because 78 percent of the clerk’s computers run Windows XP which Microsoft will not support after April 8, 2014. The rest run Windows 7 and Microsoft is on Windows 8 and working on Windows 8.1 for later this year. 

And he needs new servers because the ones in use are running 2003 software which is getting obsolete. The state is also requiring that not only must he store originals on a server, he must have duplicate copies with sensitive data — such as Social Security numbers, redacted from them and have yet another copy of the document that is used for viewing by the public. 

And he needs to be storing a copy of the servers’ contents at least 50 miles away so there is a backup of everything in case of a disaster. 

And he has to start putting more documents online which means he has more need for server storage.

Shipp said he needs it next year.

In a presentation for the commission on Tuesday, Jose Esteves, the director of information technology for the clerk’s office, and Scott DeBerry, the clerk’s information technology specialist, said the age of the county’s computer software poses a security risk. 

Both said attacks on the county system by people trying to hack into it is a daily event.

“It’s really the Wild, Wild West out there,” Scott said after detailing how one retailer’s wireless network was hacked and 45 million customer accounts were compromised. “We don’t want this to happen to us.”

He said the attacks are not just on the clerk’s office, it’s on everything, citing reports that estimate there are 20 million malicious apps available for Android phones that can steal information and one in three computers are infected with spyware, viruses or phishing apps. 

The result, DeBerry said, is stalled workflow and production. And once Microsoft ends support for the XP operating system, it will become vulnerable to attacks. 

“It’s high time we decided we’re going to be affected,” DeBerry said. His assessment for the county’s computers: “Eventually those machines will be rendered useless and without the right operating system upgrade we’re going to be sitting ducks.”

He said there is no uniform email system on computers with each department choosing what it will use and no uniform identification and network authentication. 

DeBerry said the state and the courts systems are requiring the Clerk’s office to move toward paperless operations storing all files electronically. 

The domestic relations, probate and civil cases are all filed electronically by attorneys and handled electronically by the clerk and court staff. In October, the criminal sections will be moving toward a totally paperless system. 

“This is a mandate, we don’t have a choice,” he said. DeBerry said 59 of the state’s 67 counties are already paperless. 

On the subject of redaction, two years ago Shipp asked for money to meet the state mandate that sensitive information be redacted by Jan. 1 of this year. 

In his presentation, DeBerry said, “We were just told in a conference call from our vendor that a new update is coming and the specs to run that … to fully bring on redaction.”

DeBerry said, “We have to have a bigger, badder server to do it.”

And those duplicate files to protect the original and the “original” redacted document: “We would not be able to do that now.”

The first step Esteves and DeBerry said is fixing the wiring in the courthouse. “This courthouse is no spring chicken. It’s like a spaghetti mess. That’s the wiring up there,” Esteves said pointing to the dropped ceiling in the meeting room. 

He also said a backup that gives the servers more than 20 minutes of power is needed.

Esteves said the county needs to get a wide area network so it can enforce a policy on no game-playing or going on Facebook or social networks on county computers. 

A uniform email program and user authentication programs are also on the clerk’s wish list. 

Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5), looked bothered by the report. “It appears we’ve waited a long time to say anything like this,” Stevens said. If you’re adding stuff, how come nothing was mentioned in years past?”

Stevens later said, “We’ve waited until year (20)13 for something we’ve known about since (20)11 or (20)12?

Shipp responded, “And now they’re talking about keeping it up in the cloud.”

Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) asked, “So we’re looking at going to Windows 8?”

DeBerry said the county would go to Windows 7 because it was better and a more stable system and compatible with the proprietary software the county uses for things like payroll. 

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) went to the heart of the matter. “Nobody gave us a price tag. Is this phase one or phase 20?”

“Probably thousands and thousands of dollars,” Shipp replied. “We want to rewire the courthouse to get rid of the switches and boxes. Get the servers and upgrade them.

“We’re talking about $200,000.”

Bell said, “Two hundred thousand and we’re not going to see you for four years and then you’re going to need millions.”

Shipp said when he had to cut his budget in the past four years he cut equipment purchases. “It went amiss for the last four years.”

Bell said, “That’s a terrible way to do it. The county can’t operate that way.”

“This is the first time we’ve had an IT technology budget,” Shipp said. 

Bell said Shipp’s presentation without a budget was “taking me bowling and putting on a blindfold and telling me to knock down the pins.”

He later asked, “What’s this $200,000 buying us.. It’s a big moving target and if I was you I’d keep the payroll computer running too.”