Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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City goes high-tech with free laptops

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[April 18, 2012]  Several weeks ago Alderman David Wilmert, who is in charge of technology issues for the city council, said that City Hall has been equipped with wireless technology.

This enables anyone in the building to access the Internet or a computer network via wireless connections with their desktop computers or laptops.

He said the wireless capability has even been extended to the council chambers, making it possible for aldermen to use their laptops during meetings and exchange information via emails.

The advantages to wireless capabilities for the council are the savings of paper and printing costs for handouts. Documents can be emailed to aldermen and can be viewed on their computers during meetings and discussions.

The disadvantage was that not everyone has laptops they can bring to the meetings.

However, last week, that problem was solved with a grant or gift of free laptops from State Farm Insurance of Bloomington.

Police Chief Ken Greenslate said he'd heard of an opportunity to get good, used laptops free from the insurance company and had applied for them.

As a result, the city has received 25 laptops.

At last week's committee of the whole meeting, Wilmert said he would check out all the laptops to see if they were in good enough condition to use. He also advised the council that the laptops had been stripped of software, so he would have to reload Windows and necessary programs such as for documents and spreadsheets.

Monday evening, Wilmert had one of the laptops in the council chambers. He told the council he has fully installed all the software on one computer. He ran it throughout the meeting and it appeared to be working well.

Wilmert said he'd spend a few dollars on a thumb drive to create a backup of the fully loaded software. The backup, he said, should be stored in a secure place in City Hall, to be available if one of the laptops does crash. He said having the backup would save hours of programming time.

With one up and running, Wilmert said he would continue going through the process until every computer has appropriate software.

Once all the laptops are ready, each member of the council will be given one for use while in office. The laptops will remain the property of the city.

The remainder of the 25 laptops will be used by various city departments.

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In addition to the laptops, Wilmert and Alderman Tom O'Donohue have been working on other software and computer issues at City Hall.

Not long ago it was discovered that the software purchased quite some time ago for upgrading the sewer department billing system was not actually compatible with the existing software.

This has made it impossible for the city to move forward in streamlining the sewer billing process.

In looking at this problem, another one arose. The current software being used by the city has missed a few upgrades.

Wilmert said last week that looking at the software with its provider WTI, they found they weren't as far behind on upgrades as they had initially thought. Work is continuing to bring all the city software up to date.

Finally, Wilmert recounted Monday night that he'd been scavenger hunting at Habitat for Humanity.

Last weekend Habitat, in conjunction with the Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency, had done a collection of computers for recycling.

Wilmert, who serves on the committee for the waste agency, said he'd gone to the collection point and gone through some of the stuff that was being brought in. He said that in doing so, he'd collected several "spare parts" that might someday be useful for the city.

Wilmert said he'd appreciate the city drafting a thank-you note to Habitat for allowing him to scavenge through their collection.

Mayor Keith Snyder thanked Wilmert for his endeavors.


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