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Wasco County combs through budget

— As it faces lean financial times ahead, Wasco County is going through each department with a fine-toothed comb, looking for ways to save money and run more efficiently.

The exercise has also been a learning opportunity for the Board of County Commissioners.

“We wanted to go through department by department and figure out how things work,” said commission chair Rod Runyon. The most recent department to go under the microscope was the Information Services department. Martin Willie of the Mid-Columbia Council of Governments provided the results of the audit he performed to the county commissioners during their March 20 meeting.

He noted the department’s strengths — things like an “organized and secure” server room,

high-quality workstation

computers in good

working order, a good backup system and quality support for end users.

“Since the inception of the IS department in 2001, the role of technology within the county, and the reliance upon it, has drastically increased; however the amount of staff supporting this technology has stayed about the same. Wasco County Information Services has done a good job of looking for opportunities to reduce and manage the increase in demand for services,” he wrote in his report.

In answer to a question from Commissioner Scott Hege, Willie said the number of staff in the information systems department (three full-time employees and two part-time employees) was “fairly standard” considering the scope of work. However, he recommended a restructuring of the department, noting the need for an employee tasked with implementing long-term goals and setting priorities instead of just being reactionary.

“You have to be visionary, to say ‘What’s tomorrow going to bring for IT?’ and then plan for it,” Willie said.

He said the department needed a new strategic plan now that its current one was approaching five years old. Information services manager Paul Ferguson said about 75 to 80 percent of the last one had been accomplished so far.

Willie made one hardware recommendation, but most of the weaknesses he saw were procedural. His recommendations included things like putting standard operating procedures down on paper for reference and creating a work order system where county employees who had reported problems could see the status of their “trouble ticket” and IS staff could more easily see what others in the department were working on.

He also used the proverb “Give a man a fish and feed him for day, teach a man to fish and feed him for life” to explain that increased training for end users would help reduce the workload for the department.

Willie said overall he was impressed by the department and had a good experience doing the audit.

“It was really neat to see all the work behind the scenes that people don’t know happens,” he said.

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