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Bold budget request approved for county IT department

Douglas County commissioners took a virtual leap into the county's future on Tuesday at their county board meeting in Alexandria.

After just two months on the job, new Internet Technology Director Brent Birkeland submitted a bold request to adjust the 2013 IT department budget for staff training from $500 to $10,500. His request was unanimously approved.

"Historically, there's been a big gap," Birkeland said. In 2012, $3,000 was budgeted for the same line item; $120 was allocated in 2011.

Commissioners debated on a lesser amount but ultimately agreed on the requested figure. County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow said $10,000 will be transferred from the 2013 general fund.

"I don't think $10,000 is going to put us over the edge," Rosenow said.

Birkeland said since his hire, he has had an opportunity to thoroughly examine the budget. He said the additional training will better prepare his staff for upcoming projects. Much of the training will be remote-based, which will not incur travel expenses.

"We'd really be doing a good justice to the community by helping invest in the resources we have," Birkeland said.

Some improvements Birkeland has in mind center around the county's website and online service offerings. Commissioners will be apprised of planned training and staff involved as the department moves forward.

"This is a department that has been running short," said Commissioner Bev Bales. "The entire county is benefiting by having a good IT department."

Commissioner Jim Stratton was appointed to the newly formed IT steering committee to assist with development of a strategic plan, improve department understanding of IT direction and priorities and recommend IT investments to the county board.

"We need to keep up with technology," Stratton said.

Commissioners also approved a request to replace a vacancy created when systems operator Janice Maus retired in December. Birkeland is taking the opportunity created by Maus' departure to restructure the office to better align with the technology needs of the county.

The systems operator position, which was more clerical in nature, will be replaced by a network analyst. An internal candidate will be promoted into a systems analyst position. Birkeland will then need to hire a network support technician.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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