PEPPERELL — Last week’s death of talented systems administrator Den Connors has left a large emotional hole in may Town Hall hearts, but more so a functional void in the operation of the town’s internal computer system and wireless communication capability.
This week Internal Systems Technology Committee members asked selectmen to replace Connors with a new administrator despite a hiring freeze that has been in effect for months.
“We still feel that the position needs to be filled,” said ISTC chairman Stan Posers. “Backup data etc. can be done with volunteers for a few months but no other work will be done even if it’s contracted out. It’s not small money.
“If something breaks, we can try to get someone to fix it (but) we have a big list of ongoing work. It will take a long time to get something up and also a reasonable length of time for a manager to come up to speed.”
Peggy Pomeroy said a major issue is backing up e-mail files that aren’t being done. It involves relying on users who often forget to do the work, users are finding files in different places in their computers and there are security issues with servers.
“A Boston party (contractor) can handle some, but the question is when servers die, backups die,” said David Pease.
ISTC director, accountant Theresa Walsh, said she has the names of four firms that could be hired but that option doesn’t seem viable.
Vendors support only the applications that are purchased from their firms and support levels vary. Eight or nine major applications do have management contracts.
Assistant DPW Director Mark Richardson said the DPW also uses applications that Connors constantly watched. The DPW has licensing agreements with Microsoft Corp. but Connors oversaw operations.
“Den also designed and developed our wireless infrastructure and not all of it is working yet,” Pease added.
“We need a contact person and there are (application) licensing issues (which are normally held in the name of the contact),” Pomeroy said.
“Microsoft wouldn’t talk to me because Den held the licenses,” Richardson said. “We have to add four people to the list. Just in the last couple of days I’ve been working on (computers). The Highway Department doesn’t have security (on theirs).”
Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck’s computer operates on Windows 98.
“Our basic challenge now is to do no harm (to the system) but we need backup and security stuff,” Pease explained.
“Could we explore sharing (with schools) for a short term?” asked Selectman Patrick McNabb, which was greeted with comments about potential cost.
“Who would be the school’s point person?” Pease asked.
“We’d have to retrain people anyway. We may as well do it ourselves,” Pozerski said.
Selectmen unanimously voted to allow the ISTC to recommend a candidate to replace Connors that selectmen can appoint after waiving the hiring freeze.
The ISTC will review the current job description for potential changes which, Hanson said, if not severe would not need to go before the Personnel Board.