City to upgrade phone system, develop IT strategic plan

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Priorities for this year’s city of Seal Beach IT program include implementing the use of Office 365 software by mid-August and updating the city’s 20-year-old phone system. City staff will also develop an IT strategic plan.

Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos provided an update on the city’s IT program during the Monday, July 27, City Council meeting. District Two Councilman Thomas Moore had requested an update earlier this year. Moore is director of Software Development at Roundbrix, Inc.

“My biggest concern is the phone system,” said Moore.

He said Internet connectivity was another important issue.

Gallegos said the phone system had not been updated in 20 years.

Gallegos said the city intends on doing an IT strategic plan. He said a lot would depend on finances.

According to Gallegos, Synoptek (the city’s IT service provider)  and staff had added new firewalls  to the system. He said that would prevent a lot of the malware attacks that happen daily.

He described a “cat and mouse” game between bad actors on the internet.

During his presentation, Gallegos brought up the cyber 2019 attack that compromised Seal Beach (and other cities) records. “Unfortunately, these attacks have increased greatly around the country,” Gallegos said.

He told the council that cyber security has become more important.

Gallegos said the city will provide more training to staff.

Asked for his number one takeaway from the update, Gallegos wrote: “The key takeaway from the presentation last night is that the City Council and City staff are committed and dedicated to serving the public and information technology is an integral tool that has allowed us to stay connected to residents, businesses, and visitors in unprecedented times.”

After the meeting, Councilman Moore offered his takeaways from the update. He pointed out (as had Gallegos) that the city’s phone system is 20 years old.

“Many times, the phone system goes down where at a normal company this just does not happen. The internet connection is similar where the City should have a stable connection,” Moore wrote.

“I am pleased to see that many of these items are now being implemented including moving to Office 365 next month and a new phone system by the end of the year,” Moore wrote.

“Many private companies already use Office 365 for its ease-of-use and security that is beyond what most companies can implement. With 2-factor authentication, email will be secure and robust to keep working during the event there is a power outage or network issue at the City,” Moore wrote.

“Most importantly, I would like to see security and stability with the City’s infrastructure,” Moore wrote.

“Next, I believe there is an opportunity with technology to make things more efficient for residents and for the City and also save time and money,” Moore wrote.

“For example, there is software in other Cities where contractors can submit plans in the cloud, the City can make comments and then plans can be returned. The back and forth where people need to go to City hall really is not necessary in my opinion with technology that allows you to do the same thing. Imagine never going to City hall to get plans for your new house remodel? You could sign all documents using DocuSign, review plans using ePlansoft (or other software), and pay for everything using PayPal,” Moore wrote.

“Another example is business licenses. HDL has software that allows Cities to do this over an application online. There shouldn’t be a need for people to fill out a form, print it and bring it to the City with a check. The process should be as easy as filling out an online application and paying by credit card,” Moore wrote.

“I’d also like to see a ticketing system where when a resident calls, a ticket gets created and routed to the correct department. This way a manager could see when the ticket was created and how quickly it was addressed bringing visibility to a department and how efficient complaints or requests are being dealt with along with insight as to how much activity is happening in each department. There may be common issues where a solution might help streamline the process,” Moore wrote.

Moore also praised Gallegos’ work.

“Over the past few years, I have been working with the City to help improve its technology. Patrick Gallegos deserves a huge amount of credit for moving IT initiatives along while also being Assistant City Manager and having to juggle all his regular duties,” Moore wrote.

In other news, the council:

• The council voted unanimously to certify receiving $305,580 in CARES Act Funds that must be used by Oct. 30, according to the staff report by Finance Director/Treasurer Kelly Telford. City Manager Jill Ingram had already signed the agreement to accept the funding under the local COVIDF-19 emergency declaration.

• Issued a 100th birthday proclamation for Thelma Kieffer

• Approved adjustment of bidding threshold for Public Works contracts to $34,476 and increasing the city manager’s threshold to approve agreements to that same amount. (This was a Consent Calendar item. The council votes on the Consent Calendar collectively, unless it is pulled from the council for separate discussion.)

“A 1.49 percent increase would bring the bidding threshold from $33,970 to $34,476,” according to the staff report by Deputy Public Works Director/City Engineer Iris Lee,

• Approved the annual special taxes for Heron Pointe, the Pacific Gateway Business Center and the Seal Beach Boulevard and Lampson Avenue Landscape Maintenance District.

According to City Attorney Craig Steele, none of the taxes in the three special districts will increase beyond the CPI.