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County may hire consultant for IT department

Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:18 p.m. CST

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MORRIS – Since former Grundy County technology director J.P. Watters retired in January, the technology committee has struggled to find a suitable replacement.

Last month, the technology department caused some controversy among board members by extending an employment offer to someone with a salary of $75,000 per year. That amount was about $1,000 more than Watters’ salary when he left the county after 10 years of serving as the director.

In the end, that person was not hired because he withdrew his application – for reasons unknown – the day before last month’s Grundy County Board meeting when the board was slated to vote on his employment.

However, members of the technology committee believe they may have found a solution for the technology department.

The committee is negotiating a service agreement with Peterson Computer Consulting, based in Morris, to hire Eric Peterson as a part-time technology consultant.

As the consultant, Peterson would be on call in case of a technology emergency and would assess the technology department’s budget to see where the department could streamline costs or save money, board member Chris Balkema told the Grundy County Board at Tuesday’s meeting.

Technology committee chairman David Welter told the board he believes the county needs another employee in the technology department and that Peterson can fill that role.

“With us losing our director back in December, it has made us short on staff,” Welter said. “We do have employees who have accrued comp time and vacation time. I don’t want the county to be in a position where both employees are gone, and there’s not somebody here to service the network.”

The full board was scheduled to vote on the contract Tuesday, but the vote was delayed until next month due to concerns with the contract.

“There’s a few minor things that need to be worked on, and the state’s attorney’s office would like to review it one more time before sending it to the full board,” Welter told the board.

Details of the contract were not released Tuesday, but according to Balkema, the contract would be for six months and Peterson would be paid an hourly rate, with a limit set on how many hours he could work. It would not exceed a certain number of hours, of which the number was not disclosed. This arrangement is expected to save the county money.

Balkema said current IT supervisors Kristen Torkelson and Dan Peterson will still report to County Administrator Heidi Miller so there will be no changes in management.

“The existing staff is doing a tremendous job,” Balkema said. “They’ve really stepped up since the departure of our former manager.”

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