Kentwood, MI: Chronic computer problems and failures in city sytems : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Kentwood spends $57,400 to upgrade computer network

Thursday, February 10, 2000 By Julie Makarewicz The Grand Rapids Press

KENTWOOD -- The City Commission has approved an overhaul of Kentwood's computer system to alleviate what city employees say are chronic problems and failures.

The project's cost is estimated at $57,400. Russ Afton, the city's computer consultant and owner of Dynamic Computer Service Inc., said the network upgrade will solve the current problems. The commission voted 6-1 to approve the work.

"I can tell you: The intention is for this network to be here two years from now and expanding, and I think we can connect the new facilities when they are ready," Afton said.

The city's network system was installed in 1998. At that time, 23 users were on the network. Today, Afton said, 85 users are on the network -- and more waiting.

"This server is just not capable of supporting the city any longer," he said. "It's failing on an every-other-day basis. We had a lot fewer users intended when we put this system in place.

"The growth over the last two years has been explosive, and this server just can't handle it all."

Afton suggested putting in a new network -- a more flexible one that could meet future growth. Some City Commission members were skeptical and discouraged by the proposal.

"Why did we allow expansion of the current system beyond its capabilities?" asked Commissioner Frank Cummings. "We created our own problem. I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot."

Afton said that once the various departments started using the system, they realized how many tasks and services could be provided through computers.

For example, Police Chief Richard Mattice said the Police Department initially was established with five connections. The department now has more than 30 users.

Cummings said someone should have predicted this problem long ago.

"We've met and exceeded what we can handle and nobody has screamed 'fire' along the way," he said.

Commissioner Sharon Brinks asked about the future with three new facilities being built or remodeled within the next two to three years.

"What I am seeing is a repair to a system without a longer long-range concept for the city." she said. "I'm in favor of correcting the problem, but when we spend it, let's spend it in the right way. Maybe that means waiting and spending more bucks at a later date."

But others said problems need to be corrected now.

Fire Chief James Carr said his employees have been frustrated with the system for two years, and it is getting worse.

"We've never really gotten fully online," he said. 'It's very frustrating for the employees, and I would see it as very devastating if you say, 'No, we can't do anything about this now.' "

Afton said he hopes to have the equipment ready to install by Monday, but did not know how long it will take the phone company to install a new line for the network.

Mayor Bill Hardiman said he, too, has concerns about the longevity of the system, but he also recognizes the immediate problems of city employees.

"I'm not an expert in this area. I am somewhat of an expert at seeing the current concerns at the staff level right now," he said. "I know the system is just not available, and I do know we are in need of doing something."

Cummings said he would reluctantly support the upgrade but gave a warning: "I'll be the first one screaming bloody murder if this thing doesn't work and we still have problems."

Brinks said she could not vote in favor of the upgrade.

"I have some genuine concerns in the larger context of future needs of the city," she said.

"I appreciate the frustration of the staff currently, but I don't feel comfortable voting on this yet."

Brinks said she had not had enough research time to make an educated decision on the proposal. She cast the lone dissenting vote.


-- Carl Jenkins (, February 10, 2000

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