Members of a committee working on merging Macon and Bibb County governments grappled with a conundrum Thursday.
Though legally they can only recommend choices to the full consolidation task force, and that group can only recommend options to the government that will take office Jan. 1, 2014, many of those choices are so complex they would be almost impossible to undo.
The subject before the Technology Committee was Schafer Consultings analysis of information technology needs. Payroll, administration and especially public safety functions have to be in place and running on the new governments first day, officials have said.
Schafer and its subcontractor TSSI are analyzing what it will take to link city and county systems and make them work together, but building such a unified network normally takes up to 18 months, said Bob Lewis of Schafer Consulting.
To meet the Jan. 1 deadline, its crucial for the task force make decisions now, he said.
I dont view any of these recommendations as really optional, Lewis said.
The most urgent, he said, is naming a chief technology officer with decision-making authority to structure the new system.
Quite frankly, it needs to be in place by next week, Lewis said.
That should be someone whos already here and familiar with the current setup, he said.
You simply dont have time to go outside for a search, Lewis said.
The committee briefly discussed the current city or county IT directors, city or county chief administrative officers, and even the Schafer consultants themselves. All were rejected for one reason or another. Then Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards left, depriving the committee of a voting quorum.
Mayor Robert Reichert suggested tapping Middle Georgia Regional Commission Deputy Director Brent Lanford for the job, at least on an interim basis. Lanford worked with Schafer consultants on analyzing city and county systems.
Laura Mathis, also a regional commission deputy director, said that by next week the agency can decide whether Lanford would have time to do the job. She noted that the consolidation legislation says the new government will reconsider department head appointments after 90 days, so the chief technology officer might not remain as the permanent information technology director.
Another recommendation is for Terminal Station, now home to the citys IT department, to become the new governments data center. Its got more room for growth than the Bibb County Courthouse but will need security upgrades, Lewis said.
Weve had some issues at that Terminal Station with equipment walking off and things like that, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis noted, referring to the 2011 theft of 54 city-owned computers from the building.
Committee Chairman Jeffery Monroe asked Schafer for ballpark cost figures on the recommended equipment purchases.
The committee is scheduled to vote on its recommendations at 1:30 p.m. March 14, in preparation for the full task forces consideration March 20. Committee members acknowledged that however swiftly they decide, their choices must be ratified by the slower-moving city and county governments.
The task forces Human Resources Committee decided Thursday to recommend BB&T Insurance Services as a consultant to work out a benefit plan for employees of the consolidated government. Committee members voted 4-0 Thursday to make that recommendation to the full task force, citing BB&Ts status as a local firm. Five firms presented bids, and Gallagher Benefit Services -- which now handles benefits for Bibb County -- was briefly considered as well.
BB&T offered to serve as consultant for three years for $72,000 a year, about $15,000 less per year than Gallagher bid for the same time period.
I found something that I liked from each of the consultants that presented, Reichert said. But handling benefits for roughly 2,000 employees will be a long, multi-stage process, and the choice should reflect that, he said. The firms other than BB&T and Gallagher proposed shorter contracts.
Other committee members generally agreed with Reicherts assessment. Mathis got the committees assent to add the stipulation that open enrollment for benefits should take place in the fall, and go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.