Anoka to contract out city’s technology support services

Rather than hire a full-time person to handle the city’s information technology needs, the city of Anoka will soon contract out for those services.

The Anoka City Council has unanimously approved a joint powers agreement with the city of Roseville for it to provide IT services at a cost of $116,788 for each of the next two years. The remainder of 2012 will be prorated.

This was the recommendation of the city’s 15-member technology committee, according to City Manager Tim Cruikshank.

The change comes as the city’s IT manager Chuck Krattenmaker is set to retire this month. Krattenmaker has been working part-time hours during a phased retirement, with the city contracting out its network management with Prime Time Solutions.

“We talked about a number of things, whether it made sense that we provide that service as we move into the future with an internal staff person again or whether it made sense to contract out individually or with a group,” said Cruikshank of the committee’s efforts.

The committee was unanimous on partnering with the city of Roseville, which currently provides IT services for 19 municipal agencies, including the city of East Bethel, and will soon add St. Francis to its roster, according to Network Manager Terrence Heiser.

“It has been a very successful model and it has been very cost effective,” said Cruikshank.

The cost savings for this option will be just under $10,000 a year compared with having a full-time IT person on staff at a cost of $126,000 for salary and benefits.

“(It’s) a slight savings but we really feel like we’re moving the ball ahead on the type and level and sophistication of the services we would receive,” said Cruikshank.

Heiser said within those 19 cities served by Roseville’s IT department are 1,100 computers and 1,600 staff members.

This is done by a support staff of 9.5 IT employees.

“We try to run very lean, but I think you’ll find a lot of efficiencies,” said Heiser.

By running as a group, it reduces the need for multiple network managers, systems engineers or desktop support staff.

“We consolidate those efforts,” said Heiser.

According to Councilmember Jeff Weaver, Anoka already has a reputation of partnering with other cities, as evidenced by the joint fire department shared by Anoka and Champlin.

“We’ve got to create a leaner, more efficient city hall,” said Weaver. “I like it. We need less government.”

But Weaver was surprised the cost savings wasn’t greater than the 10 percent that the city will gain by partnering with Roseville, he said.

“That margin is pretty thin,” said Weaver.

Heiser said the IT department is not run as an enterprise fund by the city of Roseville and participating cities are charged a percentage of the cost to run the department, based on the services required.

“You would pay the same monthly amount for supporting a computer as Roseville or Oakdale,” he said.

According to Heiser, the city gains constant service and support, something that would be absent when a single city employee takes time off for a vacation or is sick.

Councilmember Steve Schmidt said that by being part of the larger group, Roseville will help Anoka bring its technology up to date. It is also consistent with the city’s desire to share services, he said.

“This really dovetails with the shared service type mentality many of us have put on our council goals year after year, I can’t help but thing that there are other functions that will follow along,” said Schmidt, citing utility billing as a possible example.

Ninety days notice is required for either party to end the more than two-year agreement.

“A switch back, if or when it came, would be fairly simple,” said Cruikshank.

Heiser also addressed concerns from Councilmember Carl Anderson about the security of the city’s data.

Roseville operates a private “cloud” under its network and security comes from using best practices, including regularly updated password protection and continuous backup of data, Heiser said.

Cruikshank said several members of the technology committee have had experience working with Roseville’s IT services while employed by other metro cities.

All had positive things to say about the arrangement, he said.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]