County's aging computers, phone system need upgrades, commissioners told

September 5, 2013 Updated: September 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm

El Paso County is in the midst of a million-dollar tech crisis.

It's operating on older PCs, ancient monitors and a telephone system that, when it has problems, loses 40 percent of its phones.

Offices that feel the problem include motor vehicle, regional building and the district attorney's office, said Imad Karaki, the county's support services executive director.

The county, Karaki said, has "a major hole in its technology. A major hole."

Fixing the phone system is the most urgent need, Karaki told the county commissioners during his Thursday budget hearing.

About 60 percent of the county's 4,600 telephones are on an up-to-date system, but 40 percent are older phones that operate on an archaic analog system.

"Our concern is that citizens won't be able to reach services they need," Karaki said. "That was my priority today. The phones are absolutely a critical need that has to be met this year."

The county's technical problems have been a few years in the making, caused by the economic downturn from 2007-2009 that resulted in layoffs, service cuts and program trimming.

Property taxes plummeted. Revenues declined.

"We did not have the resources to keep the equipment up to date so now we are facing a serious backlog," Karaki said.

El Paso County government has more than 2,900 PCs and more than 900 of them are no longer covered by warranty.

During the downturn, the county let its computer replacement program expire, so when computers are replaced, monitors aren't ordered with them.

The old monitors are reused, Karaki said.

The choice was to order fewer PCs with monitors or order more PCs with no monitors. The PCs were a critical need, he said.

So far, Karaki's technology concerns and request for the $2.5 million to fix the phone system are getting good reviews by the commissioners.

"All of our elected officials are depending on the resources that we have with regard to the backbone of information technology," said County Commissioner Sallie Clark. Technology, she said, provides convenience for residents and security for records such as coroner's reports, sheriff's office and DA investigations.

"We need to make sure we're not only providing information the citizens need, but we need to make sure those private records we are tasked with keeping stay safe," she said.

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