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‘It is such a huge project’

September 17, 2019 by Brian Jopek

Mike Duening, Vilas County’s director of information technology, has begun putting the pieces together for a county computer system project that, if approved, would cost just over $320,000. 

The project, according to Vilas County finance director Jason Hilger, has two phases. 

“One for disaster recovery,” he told The Lakeland Times on Sept. 11. “To back up our data. That’s $190,000. Then we’re going to upgrade our AS 400, which is our big ‘computer engine,’ so to speak. We’re going to virtualize that, basically. Put it on the ‘cloud.’ That’s $131,000.”

“It is such a huge project,” Duening told members of the county board’s public property committee at its meeting the day before. “A lot of requests for quotes, a lot of information gathering.”

One item he said he’s had difficulty getting quotes from vendors for is a replacement generator at the forestry department.

“One that’s going to be large enough to handle the additional equipment we’ll be installing,” Duening said. “I don’t know if area electricians are too busy or if it’s too large of a project for them but to get anyone to respond.”

He said he’s had one person contact him who actually came onsite.

“He will definitely be giving us a quote for it,” Duening said. “I’m also going to ask the Samuels Group for possible additional vendors that could give us quotes for that project.”

He said it was possible the size of the generator required — in the 24 or 25 kilowatt range and more of a commercial use — could be a reason for the lack of response from local vendors.

Duening said there is time to get the proper generator and he told the committee he’s told whatever vendors he’s worked with to this point everything depends on what happens with the county’s 2020 budget. 

“At any point between now and then, it could be removed from the 2020 budget,” he said. 

Committee member Walt Maciag, acknowledging the project was a good sized one, asked Duening what prompted him to start looking into it. 

“Well, we identified the lack of true redundancy in our network,” Duening said. “If we were to get attacked from malware or there was a storm or some sort of outage that would cause our main data center to be compromised in some way ... we need to have adequate backup data.”

He said the county has backup data capability at the forestry office. 

“But to get that data useable, would take quite a bit of time,” Duening said. “Probably four or five days.”

He said there are state statutes in place that make it a requirement to have certain county offices back up and running within 24 hours. 

“That’s the rationale,” Maciag said. “Who initiated the project? Was that you?”

“I did,” Duening said. 

“That’s what I wanted to know,” Maciag said. “Because ... one of the things we don’t see a lot of because people get on and go about their work is ‘Who started this thing?’ and ‘Why was it started?’ There’s a rationale that you identified and you initiated. So, effectively, it’s a project directed by you.”

“Yes,” Duening said. 

“Well, it was ... as chairman of this committee and chairman of other committees, I feel it’s appropriate for the department heads to have some kind of a five-year or long term plan for where the county needs to go with the deficiencies that we have,” Vilas County board chairman Ron DeBruyne said.

He used the project to upgrade most of County Highway B and  doing a study regarding campground use as examples. 

“As part of that, Michael (Duening) identified and we spent quite a bit of time discussing the issues in Vilas County with retention of data and how to store it,” DeBruyne said. “As part of that plan, well, I guess we as a committee, maybe myself personally, suggest that Michael might ... well, you came with an overall plan and now you’re into getting us figures to implement the overall plan.”

The money, he said, was put into the county budget. 

“Now, it’s a matter of making sure we’ve got enough money in the budget to attach to the project,” DeBruyne said. 

That item was for discussion, but the committee did approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with police department of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. 

The MOU is for the tribal police department’s access to the county’s Spillman Public Safety software.

Duening said with some minor exceptions, the document is identical to an MOU the county has with the city of Eagle River. 

Its approval is contingent upon Vilas County corporation counsel Jack Abbot not having any issues with it. 

It also needs to go to the tribal council, the hope being it’s in place by Jan. 1, 2020.

Courthouse chiller issue

Building and grounds maintenance leader Russell Szuta reported to the committee warranty issues with the chiller installed as part of the recent courthouse addition project. 

The chiller had a one year warranty, which Szuta explained expired a year after the addition was opened. 

“We had a ... I don’t want to say a major leak,” he said, adding it had been overlooked over time because it was very thin.

“We lost a lot of oil, which is the coolant,” Szuta said. “It had been replaced.”

He said at the moment, Johnson Controls is reviewing its records, including any maintenance records, going back to when the chiller was first used to determine whether the leak will be covered under warranty.

“Basically, what I’m letting you, the committee, know is it might come up where we might have to pay for that repair,” Szuta said. “It might not be a cheap repair. It took 185 pounds of freon to fill that system back up again. That’s how much we lost.”

He said the actual repair won’t be really expensive — it was a soldering issue on a joint — and that was something that occurred at the factory and not when the chiller was installed. 

Szuta remained hopeful — he said he talked to a technician with Johnson Controls just before the meeting Sept. 10, who told him there had been some paperwork found regarding a problem with a coil in the chiller that may have had some warranty left.

“They’re hoping to push it to that, which is what I’m also hoping for,” Szuta said. 

DeBruyne, aware of the situation through emails from Szuta, said at some point, Abbott might have to be brought into the matter.

“We just sue the manufacturer,” he said.

“And that may be an avenue that we take,” Szuta said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to.”

DeBruyne referenced an email he sent to a representative of the manufacturer.

“So they know that’s the kind of jerk that I am,” he said. “Whether it’s Vilas County or Ron DeBruyne, I pays and I gets, OK? Don’t give me the broken stuff because it’s gonna cost ya.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]

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