The El Paso County commissioners approved a $4.5 million contract Tuesday, a move that officials said will streamline the county's information technology and give the public increased access to data for years to come.
Imad Karaki, the county's executive director of support services, said the unanimous approval at Tuesday's meeting locks in contractor Mythics, Inc. to complete the second part of a two-phase upgrade to the computer system.
"It needed upgrading badly, because of the lean years," Karaki said, noting that budget cuts during the economic downturn in 2007 left the county's computer system upgrades stagnate until late 2010.
According to Karaki, El Paso County had been in negotiations for months with Mythics, a branch of Oracle that the county employed in 2010. The negotiating paid off and a $14 million sticker price was trimmed to the final figure. He said the county also got a deal on the first phase, paying $5 million for $17 million worth of work.
County spokesman Dave Rose said the upgraded system will be worth it. Rose and Karaki were part of a presentation at Tuesday's meeting in which they showed how streamlined technology will make every county office more efficient.
Rose pointed to the El Paso County Assessor's Office that has been a testing ground for the new equipment. That department, which cut its staff from 70 to 50 full-time employees, has been able to do much more work than before the cuts were made, Rose said.
"Technology is the only way we can provide more services at the same cost," he said.
During Phase 1 of the upgrade, the county analyzed its needs, installed hardware and software and got the system up and running.
Now comes the streamlining, which includes making sure the "fully engineered" system is reliable, redundant and secure.
"It's not an option. It has to be secure," Karaki said, noting the threat of cyber-terrorism.
County departments such the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office and El Paso County Public Health must be able to share some information and keep other materialprivate.
The final part of Phase 1 will be turned on by late July. At that time, all county employees will be able to access personal and county information over the upgraded network.
Karaki said once the IT department knows all the bugs are out, a switch will be flipped for Phase 2 to make the upgraded system available to the public. He expects that to happen by the end of spring 2015.
Then, citizens will be able to build a personal profile and tailor it to receive updates that interest them and access their own personal county-related information - much like a "My Yahoo" account, Karaki said.
The work being done by Oracle and Mythics, Inc. comes with a maintenance package that will account for any changes in technology over the years.
"In government, we build for durability," Karaki said. "This will provide direction for the county for the next 10, 15, 20 years."