A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FEBRUARY 1, 2008
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special Department Workshop session, Information Technology and Information Outreach, on Friday February 1, 2008, at 9:00 a.m., in Training Room 233, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Debbie Stivender; Elaine Renick; and Linda Stewart. Commissioner Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman, was not present. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
PRESENTATION BY INFORMATON OUTREACH
Ms. Kelly LaFollette, Information Outreach Director, introduced her staff, who were Ms. Magda Contreras, Senior Graphic Artist; Ms. Elizabeth Heine, Webmaster; Mr. Chris Patton, Public Information Coordinator; Mr. Ryan Ross, Internet Applications Developer; and Mr. Paul Long, Graphic Artist. She then gave some information about their department’s history and how they came about, stating that they officially became a department of the County Manager’s Office in March of 2004. She stated that they were directed to address three distinct areas, which were outreach to the community through news releases and media coverage, to increase Internet presence, and to present a more professional portrayal of the County graphically through printed documents such as brochures, newsletters, and advertisements. The department worked as a team similar to a marketing agency to fulfill those needs. She reported that for Fiscal Year 2008, their total budget was about $533,000, but the Tourism Department contributed over $150,000 towards that. Ms. LaFollette related that Mr. Chris Patton, who was their staff member in charge of media relations, distributed 292 news releases in Fiscal Year 2007 as well as completed many other projects including the Citizen’s Handbook, the vacation guide, and the Quarterly Events Guides.
Mr. Patton explained that he would talk about what went into a news release and how those were developed, and stated that the information came from a lot of different sources in the County, such as through department directors, some of the BCC Meetings, and some other meetings that he attends or hears about. He explained that they tried to put those in a factual, unbiased message that the media could accept, trust, and use. Since he wanted the media to print his news releases, he used seven accepted journalistic principles, which were timeliness, proximity, uniqueness, conflict, magnitude (something that affected a lot of people), prominence (attended by important people), and human interest.
Ms. LaFollette stated that they had two full-time graphic artists, Ms. Magda Contreras and Mr. Paul Long, who completed a total of 369 graphic requests in FY 2007, and she commented that some of the things that they recently completed actually corresponded with some things that got passed through Media Relations to get to Graphic Design, such as the 2007 Annual Report (“A Picture of Success”), the Bond Presentation they used to get their bond rating, the Citizen’s Handbook (Version 2), and Festival of Reading (“A Taste of Reading”). She related that the primary mission for the Graphics Design team was to assist the departments in providing professional and informative materials to the citizens and employees, including advertisements, brochures, invitations, mailers, and promotional materials. She mentioned that having an in-house graphics team allowed the Department of Tourism and Business to get last-minute and discounted ads on short notice. She also stated that they used digital photography for various purposes, including news releases, tourism advertisements, and printed publications. She related that another thing their department did occasionally was some public service announcements, which were usually aired on government access channels, primarily for Emergency Management to help citizens be aware of and prepare for the upcoming hurricane season and for advertisement of the Festival of Reading. Their department also updated the quarterly Tourism CD-Rom, which they developed in-house.
WEBSITE DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
Ms. Lafollette stated that the Website Design and Development team was made up of two full-time staff members, Ms. Elizabeth Heine, who was their webmaster, and Mr. Ryan Ross, who was their internet applications developer. She related that these staff members reported to EOC during activation in shifts and that the front page of their website was used during times of emergency by Emergency Management for everything related to the current emergency. She noted that they were responsible for ten websites, including the BCC website, the employee intranet website, the library website, Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the LakeXpress. She reported that the visitation trend to the BCC website was at a steep climb from 875,483 visits three years ago to 2,873,275 visits during FY 2006/07. She also mentioned the recent major projects that were completed by the Website Design & Development team, including the redesign of the Property Appraiser website, the Intranet, and the library website, as well as development and launch of the LakeXpress website, weather station reporting, and phase 1 of traffic cameras that gave information on traffic on some of the County’s key highways. She described the key features of the BCC Website, some of which were paperless job applications, the interactive events calendar, the Citizen Action Request Line, and Emergency Management updates. They were also working on several upcoming projects, including some tourism projects, the Lake County Fair, Adopt-a-Lake marketing materials, Festival of Reading materials, and the Parks website redesign showing pictures of the individual parks and the amenities. She also explained that they were working on an EOC Whiteboard website, which was an improved website that Mr. Patton, in conjunction with Public Safety, had designed for whenever the EOC was activated, which contained up to date information such as which shelters were open, which were animal friendly, and where people could pick up ice. She listed some of the awards and recognitions they had gotten in the last few years, some of which were the 2005 Standard of Excellence Award, the 2006 and 2007 Government Standard of Excellence Award, the 2008 Team Award for the LakeXpress projects, and several awards through the Florida Festivals and Events Association for advertisements and promotional items. She also stated that some of the printers they used to print some of their marketing materials submitted some of their documents, and they won some Annual Florida Print Awards for the Citizen’s Handbook and the County’s official stationary.
Commr. Hill asked if they could get some equipment that they could take with them to speaking engagements in order to show presentations, which would be easy to operate so that they would not have to have a whole group of people to set up the equipment and to play it.
Ms. Lafollette responded that they could probably get the presentation into a playable DVD so that they would only need a television and a DVD player.
Mr. Steve Earls, Information Technology Director, informed the Board that he would initially talk about the history and then talk about current matters of the IT Department, and afterwards each division director and section manager would give a presentation of their division, some of which would include demonstrations. He explained that in the 1990’s, staff within a division that had some computer knowledge stepped up and helped others with any computer problems, because the County did not have an IT Department, until they finally started to source out their technology needs to local vendors. He continued to explain that the Computer Services Division was started in 1997, and their job was to prepare the County’s 300 computers for Y2K soon thereafter. He noted that as technology grew within the departments, the requirements to support that technology allowed Computer Services to grow, and in 2000 their name was changed to Information Technology Division. Over the next few years, the division started to handle imaging, converged with telecommunications, became a department, and was renamed the Office of Information Technology. In 2005, he created the Information Systems (IS) Division with nine employees to focus on computers, networks, and infrastructure to bring standards and security to their network, and in 2007 the GIS Division was added to IT, which added spatial data that was valuable to the decision makers. He showed a flow chart which named the six groups which made up IT, which were Records Management, Telecom, Information Systems, Programming Applications, Graphical Information Services (GIS), and IT Administration.
Mr. Earls stated that the IT Administration Division had two staff members, which were he and Ms. Cynthia Eads, who was an office assistant. He commented that in a department of their size, paperwork had to be done in order to even get started on any job, and they did a lot of the paperwork, such as timecards, expense reports, travel requests, procurement, and bill paying. They also worked with the County Attorney’s Office on contract management, did strategic planning, oversaw the budget, and provided leadership. He presented a chart which showed a steady increase to the budget since 2005 and explained that as the departments employed more technology, the cost showed up in their budget. He also noted that a large budget increase in 2007 was a result of a needs assessments and attempts to address those needs with some major capital purchases, some software licensing expenses, and the hiring of six additional staff. He also specified that 63 percent of their budget this year was for personal services and 32 percent was for operating expenses, and he showed some pie charts breaking down those expenses.
Mr. Earls then reported on their Strategic Plan, which was developed in 2005 after doing an internal technology needs assessment of every department, analyzing the results, setting priorities, and meeting with the County Manager’s Office to discuss the budget appropriations. He explained that if funding was approved, they then began project management and would see that project through to completion, continually monitoring the process to see if it could be improved. He talked about the IT Strategic Goals, including to promote integration of software applications and consolidation of data to bring the knowledge of the County together so that it could be easily accessed, to employ innovative processes in the County, use best business practices, carry out a records management program that was in compliance with State laws, and save taxpayer dollars. He emphasized that they provided the best technology services and did it less expensively.
Commr. Hill commented that citizens do not necessarily see the infrastructure like this that was put in place, since it was not as visible as infrastructure such as a road. She thought the citizens should know that quite a bit of money was spent in this department and that it helped everyone in the County.
PROGRAMMING AND APPLICATION SUPPORT SERVICES DIVISION
Mr. Scott Merklinger, Director of Programming and Application Support Services, stated that his division was created only about a year ago and introduced his employees, who were Mr. Kevin Willis, Database Administrator; Mr. Erikk Ross, Software Engineer; Ms. Shelly Coates, Business Analyst; and Mr. Matthew Michaelson, GIS Programmer. He commented that aligning technology and government was one of the key things that they could do to make Lake County efficient. He also stated that sometimes they had to pull information from multiple sources to make decisions, and they were trying to create a concept called DataOne that created one place that gathered that information. He summarized what they did by stating that they kept things running, which took about half of their time, and made things better. He did a demonstration where he had the Commissioners write down their favorite colors on a sheet of paper and showed how to scan the information in, taking out or redacting information that was confidential, and finding the scanned document on the internet. He commented that they spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things more efficient. He also related that he had a policy that an employee on his staff could not take a day off if they were the only one that knew something, because he thought continuity of operations was important and wanted them to create data and applications that would be around and supported for decades. He also demonstrated how to tie documents to another application with application enabler technology as well as the use of CD Plus. He stated that the Building Department was one of the first departments to work with them in adopting this scanning and showed how to pull up the certificate information for contractors. He also has tried to get all the division directors, supervisors, and department directors to think about how else the technology could be used.
Commr. Hill stated that she was getting a lot of calls about foreclosure sales and how to find out if there were any liens on the property before purchasing a foreclosure piece of property. She asked how the average citizen could find that information.
Mr. Merklinger answered that currently finding information regarding the tax lien or tax deed sales was a little bit cumbersome, but they were working on initiatives with all the other constitutional entities to create a circle of data where they could get anywhere from anywhere else. He mentioned that Ms. LaFollette’s staff was working on the Property Appraiser’s website and that the GIS staff had tied GIS directly to the Property Appraiser. He also pointed out that there were security issues they had to be careful of, because they could not compromise their data.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, related that the Lake County Clerk’s Office had every document that was recorded in the official records since 1972.
Mr. Merklinger talked briefly about the automated agendas for the Tuesday BCC Meetings, commenting that it was currently a lot less work to put together than it used to be since the documents currently were electronically submitted. He commented that when someone thought something did not make sense and was a waste of time, it should be an indication to call him to find a way to do it better either through a process redefinement or using technology.
RECORDS MANAGEMENT DIVISION
Mr. Larry Chester, Records Management Director, stated that their division’s mission was to ensure that the County’s records were maintained in compliance with the County’s policies and procedures, legal and statutory requirements, and operational guidelines. He related that their team consisted of two technicians, Ms. Rebecca Brown and Ms. Kimberly Schneider, and that their team strived to produce good customer service. He related that they trained the department record coordinators to inform them of changes or updates in the industry and review public records procedures, and they briefed new employees during employee orientation on records management. He stated that they had input all of their department audits into DataOne, generated a report that gave them a 30-day look at what records would be exceeding their retention dates, and sent out notices to the appropriate departments notifying them and seeking approval to destroy. If they received that approval, then they went through with records destruction. He explained that they also worked with IT on media management to develop new systems such as DataOne to ensure that their records were kept in accordance with the record retention schedule.
Mr. Chester stated that one of the department’s current projects was DataOne scanning, including documents for the Impact Fee Coordinator, and in the future they were planning on scanning Growth Management documents and Public Works’ Right of Way Deeds and other documents. He specified that other projects that they were currently working on were online records coordinator training and updating the Lake County Records Management Policies & Procedures Manual brought about by changes in technology, such as electronic imaging. He reported that their total budget was a little over $184,000 and pointed out that this budget was only 1.5 percent above the 2001 level and added only one new employee in that time frame. He also mentioned that 81 percent of the budget was for personal services and 19 percent was for operating cost, which included rental space, conferences, training classes, and disposition cost. He noted that they had 1787 requests in 2007 and that they had picked up 283 new boxes and destroyed 227 boxes. He presented a chart with figures showing an eleven percent decrease in the growth rate of requests per month, which was the difference between new boxes and the boxes destroyed, due to scanning of data into DataOne. He also showed some of the accolades that their department had gotten from staff of various County departments, which related that their department provided service that was efficient, professional, timely, helpful, and friendly.
INFORMATION SYSTEMS DIVISION
Mr. Leon Platt, Information Systems Director, stated that the Information Systems (IS) Division was a dedicated group of support personnel whose mission it was to implement a well-coordinated plan of action to deliver superior technical support, enhance security, and provide data protection throughout the organization. He related that his staff worked as a team to design, build, and maintain the computer infrastructure by which all technical services were delivered and which provided core services that allowed all other technical services to exist. He also stated that in addition to what he had already mentioned, they also offered a whole slew of services that were consumed by the BCC users as well as by other County entities. He went on to say that not long ago, every department had to create its own infrastructure to support individual applications, most of which did not have the ability to share common core services with each other. However, today the IS Division has taken these concerns out of individual departments, which allowed those departments to focus strictly on the business aspects of their applications.
Mr. Platt went through the duties or services that each of the Network Admins were individually responsible for. He related that Aaron was their e-mail specialist and that he set up user accounts, secured user and departmental data, and was building their user and computer security profiles that they employed throughout the County. He stated that Ty was responsible for all of the County’s data and did nightly backups every night as well as retrieving data that users had lost. He noted that another important aspect of Ty’s job was that he validated their backup process on a quarterly basis to make sure that everything was working. Mr. Platt next related that Chris was a Network Admin that worked closely with the network technicians to ensure that they could reliably and quickly deploy new computer systems out to their users, and he had been instrumental in helping the EOC Division as well as Building Services meet their technical needs. He then explained that Ron was their Lan/Wan Specialist who was solely responsible for maintaining all of the network equipment and the cables that made up their campus backbone, their local area BCC network, and connectivity into their metropolitan area network, which allowed remote users to connect via the least lines. Ron also maintained their two wireless networks, one of which provided public access for citizens to the internet and the other network used for BCC users, and one of Ron’s main tasks was to figure out the best and the most cost effective way to get remote users to be able to connect into their network so that they could run their applications. Mr. Platt stated that Pat was the Lead Network Technician who had four technicians that worked under him, and he assigned all help desk work orders, answered the help desk phone, and provided technical service when needed. He explained that Jim was their Asset Manager, who managed over $3 million of capital IT assets and that he also managed non-capital hardware, software, licenses, and service maintenance contracts that were purchased. He commented that recently Jim was tasked with the job of being the software custodian and the license manager for all of the software throughout the County.
Mr. Platt showed a pie chart that demonstrated the six-year hardware lifecycle and that the total cost of maintenance went up with the age of the equipment, which usually showed up in their budget by Year 4 of its lifecycle. He commented that his systems ran on the Microsoft Office platform, which was his staff’s area of expertise, and it provided a good environment for the users. He went over the 10-year operating system lifecycle of Windows and showed a pie chart illustrating this cycle, which showed a compatibility issue by Year 10. He went through some of the everyday challenges that they faced, including maintaining 70 servers, updating over 800 computers connected to the BCC network every week, serving six County entities receiving Internet access, handling 500 malicious attacks on the network every week and 800 virus attacks every day, and handling 3400 Help Desk tickets last year. He stated that Information Systems was all about creating a well-balanced infrastructure which allowed them to offer all of the desired technical services at a level that was acceptable by all of their users. He added that the infrastructure must be built in layers and built with equal emphasis on connectivity, security, performance, reliability, scalability, and manageability, in order to support the services that they wanted to provide. He presented some comments from County staff that showed that they have developed the respect and appreciation from most of the County divisions and entities.
Commr. Hill asked if they would be able to retain their data in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack and there was a major blackout.
Mr. Platt stated that they would be able to retain the data, and they had natural disaster plans in place. He also added that they worked closely with the Clerk, especially when it came to the Munis application; they had a whole plan on how to handle that; and they relied on their duplicate data that they had in the Clerk’s Office and the Records Office.
Mr. Minkoff commented that if the entire area of Lake County was shut down, they could still operate Munis and write checks and pay bills from another location.
Mr. Doug Woodyard, Telecommunications Division Director, stated that they handled all of the telephone issues and showed a video demonstrating how a phone line worked. He commented that his division strived to use their experience to be proactive and efficient, and last year they adopted a philosophy called Solution Providers where they met with other departments and divisions to talk about what was not working for them and what they could do to improve things. He also showed a demonstration of where all the phones that they serviced in the County were located, which included all the locations of the BCC, the libraries, the Sheriff, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Clerk, 5th Judicial Administration, States Attorney, and Public Defender. He went on to explain that within the County, they had 30 phone systems that they maintained, and about 12 of those were interconnected together to enable four-digit dialing within the system. He specified that there were a total of 2,500 phones across the County, over 275 phone lines, and a 24-line voice mail server that served the entire county. He related that they were able to track phone calls similar to the way that they tracked e-mails, which showed that over 3.4 million total phone calls were made in and out of the county last year at the 12 locations, and he commented that the BCC employees made the most calls, with the Sheriff’s employees making the next highest number of calls. He explained that they went from paper work orders to a totally automated system through a web site, which greatly reduced the amount of response time to work order requests. He also reported that they completed a total of 656 work orders in 2007, which included requests for backing up a system, fixing a phone, or installing a new location. He showed some accolades from other entities throughout the county indicating that they provided prompt, efficient, innovative, and friendly service and were willing to go the extra mile. He pointed out the work they did for EOC during the tornadoes last year and noted that they expanded the EOC phone system from an insufficient number of incoming phone lines to the message center to a much greater and sufficient number that could be accessed from the outside with a block of telephone numbers that were consecutive. He stated that he implemented the call tracking system that they currently had on February 5, 2006, so he had just missed being able to track how many calls they had coming in as a result of the tornadoes. He also noted the financial savings that had resulted from negotiating long distance plans, making economical equipment purchases, eliminating the need for maintenance contracts by hiring a technician, and reducing other phone costs had saved the County over $57,000 in 2007 and that they were going to keep trying to maintain that trend.
GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Ms. Kitty Cooper, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Director, started by giving some history of the division from its inception in 1997. She stated that between 1998 and 2006, they completed the first pass on core layers, and they had data in there and were currently in the maintenance process. She specified that the core layers were addressing (or structures), streets, and tax parcels, and she related that they had created interlocal agreements with municipalities and most Constitutional Offices. She mentioned that they moved to the IT Department in 2007, which allowed them to get a greater appreciation of all the technology they were using and helped them integrate the application situations with them. She elaborated that it took a burden off of them and allowed them to do a lot more things, because originally they maintained their own servers. She stated that this year they were expecting delivery of the Contours, which would be used for many projects. She commented that they had excellent Premier software for GIS and had an excellent IT staff to support them. She stated that GIS created the atmosphere of being able to operate and cooperate with everyone else; and as time went by and GIS had changed, computers had become faster, and storage had become greater, they needed to put more and more information in there. She also related that one of the most important products of GIS was the change to business processes and work flows, as well as providing something that would expedite things for someone else. She opined that the most important part of GIS was the people and that she had 14 highly-trained staff. She listed some of their accomplishments, including handling 435 data requests and projects and 5000 phone calls for data requests and website assistance in 2007. Their other accomplishments included locating and assigning an xy (latitude/longitude) coordinate for all of the 150,000 structures in Lake County, creating a census-verifiable street layer for the County, creating many natural resource layers, transferring a lot of historic information to digital layers, supporting Homeland Security in Lake County, supporting EOC with mapping and location functions, and creating a website to allow citizens to access the maintained information. She also commented that GIS was best at enhancing the business of doing government, such as increasing efficiency, accuracy, productivity, and communication; generating revenue; automating workflows; and improving access to government.
Ms. Cooper explained and showed an application for Public Safety that quickly located residences and their location from fire hydrants and fire stations for insurance purposes. She talked about and showed an example of a rapid damage assessment application under development which would allow first responders to accurately assess damage, without losing addresses or information that would be lost by doing duplicate data entry. She next referred to the ZapMap that was done in partnership with Growth Management, the Zoning Division, and the Product & Applications Support Services (PASS), which was an application that allowed access to the critical zoning layer and associated documents through GIS. She also mentioned that Annexations@lakecountyfl.gov was another work process outflow where every city in the County could e-mail their annexation ordinances into the County, which reduced paper, sped up the process, centralized the receipt of the data, and reduced the risk of lost data.
Ms. Cooper commented that they needed to know how they got to where they were to understand the future, and she showed animated snapshots of the Villages, the Tavares Campus, and the Citrus Tower from 1941 through 2006. She explained that Cityview was the beginning of a partnership with the municipalities that would allow them to look at their city or their town individually from their website. She stated that they would eventually like them to be able to enter their data in a secure environment and have it appear where everyone can see each other’s data side by side. She pointed out that this would eliminate endless streams of paper and poor duplicate data entry and that it would create a real sense of partnership and efficiencies of scale and process. She stated that Astatula, Groveland, and Tavares had been added to the system, with Leesburg coming on Board next week, and they were going to meet with Mount Dora. She mentioned that they would like to do a GIS partnership summit with the municipalities later in the summer to talk about what kind of efficiencies they could create with each other so that they were all sharing data. She also pointed out the new maps feature that could be downloaded and printed from the website. She talked about the future of GIS, including the creation of an Enterprise Geodatabase, integration of spatial data with the County’s document imaging system, participation in the 2010 census, providing a historical aerial view of the County, and creation of more effective partnerships with the municipalities. She briefly mentioned the accolades that her division received from others who have been pleased with the GIS system. She concluded by stating that her new motto was, “If you want to do it for less, use GIS.”
CONCLUSION OF PRESENTATION
Mr. Steve Earls thanked Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, and the Board for being supportive of the IT Department and giving him the resources to assemble the staff they had that could in turn help everyone within the County. He also commented that he hoped that the Commissioners saw that they were trying to bring about innovative processes to the County and that IT was trying to do its part in being a technology leader in multi-jurisdictional cooperation and to make the County a high-performance organization.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, stated that she had previously indicated to the Board that she would like to hold a work session on some early budget issues on February 12, but Commr. Renick would not be here on that day. She wanted to know if she could reschedule it instead, if it was alright with the Board, as a follow-up to their normal Board Meeting which would be the next Tuesday, February 19. She noted that it might go longer in the day than a normal work session, but she felt it was important for them to sit down and go through some of the budget implications that they would be looking at and get a little bit of feedback from the Board. After some discussion about whether that would conflict with the schedule for Lake County days, Ms. Hall stated that she would look at the schedule and get back to them.
Commr. Hill asked if they had a Value Adjustment Board (VAB) meeting on February 12, or if it had been cancelled.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, replied that they had one VAB meeting on Tuesday, February 5 and that it hopefully would only be for about five minutes. He also explained that they had another one on February 19 that they postponed and moved to the first Tuesday in March, because they did not have all the special master reports in yet. He commented that he did not think there would be any controversy this year, because the District Court of Appeals rendered a decision, and Mr. Ed Havill, Property Appraiser, lost all that was at issue pertaining to the three times rule.
Ms. Hall stated that they would look at their calendars and see what they could come up with regarding the workshop and get the word out as quickly as possible.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
NEIL KELLY, CLERK