CHESTER – The board of selectmen has been talking about beginning a computer replacement plan for the town this term but until Thursday, March 20, gave little specific information to the public on the effort. Last week, however, the board discussed how to move forward in more depth, but most were unsure about the specifics of the plan, the computers and how they should proceed.
On a request by the budget committee for more information, the selectmen agreed at their last meeting to look into this computer replacement program they had floated earlier in the year. Selectman Joe Castricone said he would do a walk through with the town’s current Information Technology (IT) vendor to determine which computers needed to be replaced. He said he would also look for a second opinion on costs.
Castricone said last week he did not have time to get another informal bid for the project.
Finance manager Joanne Smith had the specifics on the computers and presented those to the board March 20. She noted that her work in reviewing the computers with the IT vendor made it clear to her how little information the town had on the computers.
According to Smith there are 26 computers that were initially contemplated for replacement, at a lease cost of $18,720 over four years for the hardware. But on closer inspection, Smith explained, it appears that 11 computers have a more urgent replacement need.
Eleven computers would cost $7,920 for hardware.
Smith explained that those 11 computers needed an updated operating system, as they were all outdated.
Selectmen’s office assistant Pat Martin said the current computers can’t always be updated for virus software. Other town employees have noted that the computers have difficulty communicating with each other and are outdated.
A bid from IT vendor Boston Systems for the program includes costs for two servers; various software for the treasurer, town clerk, police department, assessing and finance; a copier lease and a postage meter, at a cost for 26 computers of $62,032.
For 11 computers the total drops to $49,732.
Selectman Jack Cannon asked for justification for replacing the computers, asking which were front line machines, what they were used for and whether the cost savings justified the expense. He said he guessed that most of the machines were used for basic tasks like word processing, spreadsheet analysis and email and thus may suffice with just a software update.
There weren’t definite answers to his questions last week, although there was speculation.
Several of the computers scheduled for replacement handle town finances and town clerk/tax collector duties. Eight of them are in the town offices. The others would be for highway, fire and maintenance.
Smith explained that if the computers were not replaced, they would still need software updates at a cost of $250 for the license and installation.
Chair Steph Landau said it was time to move forward with computer replacement. He conceded that he was no computer expert and thus was confident in taking the suggestions of the experts with whom the town is working. He said he would at least like to begin a replacement plan for town computer infrastructure and if the suggestion was to replace 11 this year, then the town should replace 11.
“We don’t need to micromanage it,” said Landau.
Various boards of selectmen have discussed replacing computers but each term the plan ultimately fizzles.
The board voted to approve 11 new computers in the budget, all voting in favor except for Cannon, who voted no.