Small Steps on I.T. Upgrade

    The former chairman of an East Hampton Town computer committee spoke to the town board on Tuesday about upgrading some of the town’s information technology services, regardless of a recent board deadlock over a plan to seek proposals from outside companies to take over some of the town I.T. Department’s duties.
    “All I want to see . . . is some progress on something that I think is achievable,” Paul Fiondella told the board. “The public doesn’t care if you get along or not. We just want you to move forward,” he said.
    One way to begin addressing a technological upgrade, Mr. Fiondella said, is to develop a Web-based payment system through which residents can apply and pay for town permits, needed for beach parking or the recycling centers, for instance.
    Councilwoman Theresa Quigley told him that is something she would like to do, “but I can’t get the board to agree.”
    Ms. Quigley and Supervisor Bill Wilkinson supported a resolution to seek proposals on outsourcing information technology services, but the other three board members did not.
    Mr. Fiondella suggested seeking compromise where it might be possible. “Why not move forward with one area you can agree on?” he asked. A request for proposal could focus on just the services needed to set up an online payment system, he said, which would be a convenience for taxpayers. “It’s not an issue of all or nothing,” he told Ms. Quigley. “You have to start with consensus.”
    “This town does not have a good track record in dealing with big issues,” he said. But Ms. Quigley said that there are other areas she feels are “just as much needed” as online bill paying — wireless Internet at Town Hall, for instance. Not being a town employee, she told Mr. Fiondella, he is unaware of the extent of the town’s problems with technology. For example, she said, “I can’t open my e-mail.”
    “I am not willing to stop there,” she said of Mr. Fiondella’s suggestion. “Dealing with minutiae is not a way to run government. And so to back down because of political pressure — either it’s a choice that we deal with this issue, or we back down,” she said.
    “It’s a very limited and narrow focus, and I think it’s a great approach,” Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc told Mr. Fiondella. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby agreed.
    To address the bigger picture about information technology services, she said, analysis is needed. “Maybe we need to expand our existing I.T. Department,” she said.
    “I appreciate the fact that you’re pointing out that we can make progress on small issues,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “There won’t be a deadlock. When you take on a huge, huge topic, you’re not going to agree on everything.”
    Mr. Van Scoyoc said that WiFi is slated to be installed at Town Hall this week. Ms. Quigley said that was due to efforts by her and Mr. Wilkinson.
    Mr. Wilkinson addressed only the issue of the proposal to seek outsiders to provide information technology services. In private business, he said, “you mandated that your employees perform at the same level or better” than others who could perform the same duties. “That’s performance. We don’t have that option here.”
    He said Ms. Overby’s stance that the board should solicit information from other town departments about what is needed by them as far as technology before making wholesale changes to the Information Technology Department, or outsourcing duties, “scares the hell out of me. It becomes a plethora of a ‘want list,’ and it’s financially irresponsible,” he said.

Cost-Saving Efforts
    Efforts to reduce overtime and compensatory time costs have been effective, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley reported to the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday. After issuing a directive requiring town department heads to give prior approval to employees before overtime or “comp time” hours are accrued, the town has saved close to $500,000 in a year on those payments to staff, Ms. Quigley said. “It’s been very effective,” she said.