Council approves flexible plan to upgrade city tech resources

Posted: November 14, 2012

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — After months of work, city leaders are ready to begin improving the government’s technological resources.

By a 9-0 vote Tuesday night, City Council approved a strategic plan to improve Winchester’s information technology. The plan was developed by city staff and a consultant and approved by a public-private review committee.

The plan anticipates nearly $2.75 million in technology spending over the next five years. Annual expenditures would be as low as $291,333 through June 30, 2013, to as much as $744,733 in fiscal year 2015, the plan’s third year.

The document provides an outline of what the city can do to improve its information technology, but it might later be deemed prudent to deviate from the plan.

“This is not anything carved in stone,” cautioned Vice-Mayor Milt McInturff, chairman of the Information Technology Committee. “It’s a work in progress.”

“It’s a blueprint, but it’s a soft blueprint,” added Councilor Les Veach, also a committee member.

The FY13 budget provides $500,000 in seed funding for the initiative, but money to complete the upgrades will have to be provided annually during the budget process.

The changes primarily would aim to increase the productivity of staff members, allow citizens to conduct more business with the city electronically and ensure adequate storage and recovery of important data.

The plan calls for the city to fill a frozen technician position and add part-time administrative support.

In other action, the councilors voted 9-0 to approve changes pertaining to utility billing terms and deposits.

The changes include boosting the utility deposit amount to $150 from $90 (and to $170 when new rates go into effect June 1) and eliminating the possibility that the deposit could be refunded to a tenant paying for service if that tenant does not have a delinquent payment following a year of service.

The new rules also state that the city will not require a security deposit from a tenant if he provides a property-owner authorization letter and documentation indicating he receives need-based governmental rental assistance.

The councilors unanimously approved a resolution expressing its sorrow following the death of community leader Mike Foreman and commemorating some of his many achievements. A copy of the resolution was presented to six of his dining and volunteering friends collectively known as the “Lunch Bunch.”

Foreman, a retired clerk of the Winchester Circuit Court who served on City Council from 1972 to 1975, died Oct. 30 after a short illness.

The councilors also:

Voted 8-1 to approve amendments to City Code pertaining to the Old Town Development Board. Councilor Ben Weber voted against the amendment.

Voted 9-0 to approve amendments to City Code pertaining to real estate exemptions by classification and designation. The amendments make the commissioner of the revenue, not the assessor, the recipient and processor of exemption requests and sets a Nov. 1 deadline for exemption-by-designation requests.

Voted 9-0 to reapprove a 1993 ordinance to vacate an approximately 10-foot-wide, 678-foot-long portion of Battaile Drive adjacent to 391 and 403 Battaile Drive and convey it to the adjacent property owner.

Voted 9-0 to ratify the Declaration of Emergency activated during Hurricane Sandy’s approach.

Voted 9-0 to approve a resolution to pursue and execute a $152,000 Virginia Information Technologies Agency grant.

Voted 9-0 to support the designation of the Lord Fairfax Emergency Medical Services Council as a regional EMS council in Virginia.

Voted 9-0 to approve a resolution to accept a 2012 State Homeland Security Hazmat Team Equipment, Exercise and Training Grant for $24,300.

Voted 9-0 to appoint Melinda Kramer as a member of the Old Town Development Board to a three-year term ending Oct. 31, 2015.

Voted 9-0 to appoint Mike Runion as an alternate member of the Board of Equalization for a two-year term ending Dec. 31, 2014.

Heard a presentation from students who participated in Shenandoah University’s Summer High School Leadership by Design for Public Service and Citizenship program.

Announced the resignations of Thomas Throckmorton and Ann Wigley as members of the Social Services Advisory Board.

Held a first reading on an ordinance to revoke the section of City Code requiring applicants for a concealed weapons permit to be fingerprinted.

Held a first reading on an ordinance to amend the fiscal year 2013 budget.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were President Jeffrey Buettner, Mayor Elizabeth Minor, Vice President John Willingham, Vice-Mayor Milt McInturff and councilors Evan Clark, John Hill, John Tagnesi, Les Veach and Ben Weber.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at