Consultant Working To Improve Lox Groves Computer Systems

Steven Murray with Municipal Technologies reported at the Tuesday, Dec. 4 meeting of the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on the progress of several major upgrades underway to improve the computer systems and web sites of the Town of Loxahatchee Groves and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District.

Murray’s firm was contracted by the council last month to help the town undertake a major refurbishing of the technological systems.

“The major project that we worked on last month, since we started this contract, is that we have reviewed the cybersecurity network infrastructure,” he said. “You have an item on your agenda tonight for the purchase of the equipment necessary to add the additional security to the town and the public works facilities infrastructures.”

Murray reported that he received competitive quotes for two network switches, two firewalls, two wireless access points, advanced malware and advanced internet protection. Each piece of hardware will be installed at the public works facility, formerly the LGWCD office, and town hall.

“We also finished up the [computer] inventory as we are analyzing the state of the current desktop/laptop equipment,” Murray said. “We will be moving forward with a proposal for an upgrade plan.”

Murray reported that there are seven desktops and four laptops in town hall with operating systems mixed between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Both operating systems are in “extended phase” of support from Microsoft and will hit their end of life in 2019 and 2022, respectively. He recommended implementing a replacement program as a single project or in annual phases. The 2019 budget has allocated $10,000 for computer upgrades.

Murray said that an Office 365 migration is moving along.

“We are consolidating the licensing and moving it to a government licensing, which is extremely important when dealing with record retention and where your data is actually stored, making sure it is actually stored within the U.S. to be compliant with government standards,” he said. “We are also increasing the level of license, so you will receive Office 365 licensing at the desktop level, whereas it is now all commercial licensing at the desktop level with an annual renewal. That will end up saving the town approximately $1,000 a year.”

Murray said they are continuing to work with software company Blackbaud concerning issues with its programming to address a bug that has caused a double entry in the accounting system.

“That is an ongoing process, and as we get more information, we will report more back to the council,” he said. “We actually heard today that a couple of other clients have the same glitch.”

Murray said he also wants to bring forward an IT policy for all staff that are on site.

“Right now, the policies are with the attorney for him to review,” he said. “We drafted a sample policy for the town. It incorporates computer usage, internet usage and policies for passwords. It provides compliance and guidelines for the onsite contractors to follow and also a little bit of accountability.”

Murray has also implemented a geographic information system (GIS) solution for the town.

“That solution will allow us to have an online presence for mapping, and also for internal applications for town staff to utilize geospatial information,” he said. “One of the solutions that we just rolled out was a notification system where the town staff can identify a parcel or a line of parcels along a road, and then be able to get the mailing addresses, so that way they can do a mail merge for one of the items that the manager is bringing forward tonight for you to vote on.”

Murray said one of the other issues that he has seen in the last six months is web site compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“There is a group of individuals bringing lawsuits against government agencies throughout Florida to make sure that their web sites are ADA-compliant with screen readers for the visually impaired,” he said, explaining that there are several issues in that regard with the town and LGWCD web sites. “I believe that it behooves the town [to address] these issues sooner rather than later.”

Another issue is that the two existing web sites use different web hosts. The town uses Municode, while the LGWCD uses CivicPlus.

“Both are widely used platforms around the state,” Murray said. “Those currently being used are older platforms. My recommendation is upgrading and consolidating both of the web sites, and taking down the district’s web site, as it should be rolled into the town as its public works department.”

Murray also recommended integrating an agenda automation process for the clerk’s office. He said it should be integrated with the web site to allow seamless tracking of an item from agenda request to final agenda creation.

“Currently, our process is very manual, and I believe that the town will benefit greatly not only in transparency, but also in workload, in creating more of an online and digital process integrated with the web site,” Murray said, explaining that in addition to better control and organization of the agenda process, it will also leverage integrated ADA compliance scanning to make sure agenda packets and notices meet the compliance needs of the town.

The council agreed 4-0 to receive and file the report.