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Manatee BOCC Gets Information and Technology Update


BRADENTON -- The growth of Internet services and web technologies have increased the ways citizens interact with government. Paul Alexander, is Manatee County's Information Technology Department Director, and he delivered a IT update presentation to Manatee County Commissioners at Tuesday's work session. 

It was only a little more than a year ago when Alexander took the helm at Manatee County's Information Technology Service Department. His goal was to develop a series of business strategies that improve customer service.

At Tuesday's work session, Alexander described how the purpose of Manatee's Strategic Planning Process is to provide interactive choices that improve economic opportunities for those that live and work in Manatee County.

Alexander first described Voice Over IP. The county communication system currently has 30 telephone systems, 10 voicemail auto attendants, three call center servers and three recording servers. Most of the equipment is nearing their expiration dates. 

Newer technology utilizes the data networks for transport to voice. This eliminates much of the diverse equipment now being used and helps the county save as much as $1,500,000 over the next 15 years.

Alexander also focused on the P25 Radio, a Suncoast Regional Communications Network that is a Manatee/Sarasota partnership.

The radios that both counties use have reached the end of their expected life cycle. The largest hurdle for all systems that use assorted technologies is their compatibility with other systems. The 800 MHz P25 puts the region in sync. 

The cost is almost $15,000,000 within the first three years, but the savings from having to replace the outdated equipment and deal with the complications regional communication invites, would be even more costly.

The Fiber Network Plan Alexander spoke of dates back to 2007, when the Manatee County Government entered into a collaborative agreement to develop a fiber optic system. The goal was to connect all government buildings. 

The $10,000,000 project connects the county, the school district and traffic engineering systems, including traffic signals and cameras.

Alexander's update also included the difficult task of bringing stability and structure to the county's email system, a feat sometimes described as being similar to taming the wild-wild- west.

Alexander creatively constructed what he calls a "clean-up Email contest" that will first and foremost restructure the mountain of mail that years of communicating builds.

Most of what is in the update is also currently budgeted. Alexander says it is costly, but less so than to not make the changes. 

All of the equipment is designed to communicate with the rest of the federal and local governments, which also has opened up the opportunity to offset some of the expense through federal and state grants.


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