July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Sheriff’s Office finds possible pathway to ‘cloud’

MEDINA — Casino revenues would pay most of the cost for a Sheriff’s Office software upgrade aimed at saving the county money in the long run.

Medina County commissioners tasked County Administrator Chris Jakab last week with finding money in this year’s budget to convert the Sheriff’s Office to a “cloud” Internet server based in Columbus.

Sheriff Tom Miller

The $119,000 investment would save the county $67,000 in 2014 because the Sheriff’s Office would not have to maintain his own server, officials said.

It originally was estimated that $159,000 would be needed to pay for the project. But Jakab told the commissioners Monday that the cost would be only $119,000.

He said the county’s share of revenue from the state’s four new casinos, in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati, could provide $100,000. The remaining $19,000 could come from savings from the county’s new fiber-optic communication system.

Jakab said the county’s cash reserve fund stands at $393,000 — not counting the casino revenue.

Commissioner Pat Geissman expressed concern about using the reserve fund to pay for upgrading the sheriff’s computer system.

“It will save us money next year, but it certainly pulls us down in case of an emergency (this year),” Geissman said. “That would be my only concern.”

But all three commissioners agreed doing the project this year made sense.

“We’re going to pay now or we’re going to pay later and we can see that it’s less expensive to pay now,” Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley said.

Hambley said a vote authorizing the spending would come after the casino money comes in.

The sheriff’s law enforcement data system, provided by EmergiTech Corp., logs all calls to the Sheriff’s Office and routes them to officers in the field, tracks patrol car locations and jail inmates, sends police reports to the county prosecutor’s office and citations to the common pleas court, and allows officers to write and submit their reports from the field.

Sheriff Tom Miller said the upgraded system would have the same capabilities but also would allow local agencies to be linked with the sheriff’s records to provide easier public access. In the new system, all information would be stored in a central database in Columbus and the county only would pay the annual service fees. Those fees include the costs of annual software upgrades and system security. The cost savings would result from the elimination of bulky hardware at the Sheriff’s Office and the cost of maintaining it.

At a discussion session last week, Miller and communications supervisor Jonelle Meredith said the overall costs of maintaining the existing network would be more than $186,000.

The cost of switching to the “cloud” will be roughly $176,000, a savings of $10,000 this year.

The Sheriff’s Office has secured an additional $33,000 in grant funds, dropping the cost to the county’s general fund to $143,000. If the county switches by Aug. 31, a prorated bill would save an additional $29,000 and reduce the cost to $114,000.

About $5,000 more is needed to replace some equipment in the dispatch center, bringing the total bill to $119,000.

Miller said a Technology Improvement Grant of $50,000 from phone provider Securus, in exchange for a three-year contract extension, would cover the cost of upgrading 21 computers in the Sheriff’s Office to Windows 7 and the software switch would cover the cost of upgrading 16 more.

Windows 7 is the operating system that meets EmergiTech’s minimum requirements to run the cloud software.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.