N.C. county exploits Internet opportunities

N.C. county exploits Internet opportunities

Mecklenburg County wants to develop a criminal justice system for state and local use, ITS director Jerry Pinkard says.

Criminal justice systems and radio networks are also on Mecklenburg's plate

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff

Mecklenburg County, N.C., supports an array of services for about 630,000 residents and 4,500 employees. Information Services and Technology Department director Jerry Pinkard recently spoke with GCN/State & Local about the systems behind those services.

Pinkard has more than 30 years of IT industry and government experience. He worked for the county for a few years before a long stint as a private-sector technology consultant and returned to civic life 11 years ago to run IST.

PINKARD: The Information Services and Technology Department provides a full range of automation services and support for all county agencies. We charge our agency customers whatever costs we incur on their behalf.

IST has 101 full-time employees. At any point in time, we'll have about 25 contractors doing various and sundry things for us.

Who's In Charge

Jerry Pinkard

Director, Information Services and Technology

Sue Chamberlin

Assistant Director, Application Services

Gwen Gray

Assistant Director, Application Services

Evelyn Minter

Assistant Director, Information Center/Networks


Source: Mecklenburg IST Department

We are a centralized county resource for LAN and desktop services, although many of our 29 departments provide their own decentralized PCs and networking support. We also provide a full range of application services for our customers.

Our telecommunications unit handles contract administration for voice and data services across the county. We use a Centrex service from BellSouth Corp. of Atlanta, so that's largely outsourced. We have about 6,000 telephones, 3,000 voice-mail boxes and 750 wireless phones.

We do some work for the city of Charlotte as well. We run a mainframe computer center that serves both the city and the county.

Last year, IST took over county responsibility for the 800-MHz Motorola Inc. radio network, which supports all city and county public-safety agencies. There are about 8,000 radios on the network, which is one of the largest in the country.

We're considering a merger of the county and city units that jointly manage the system.

We're about to release a request for proposals for a Criminal Justice Information System re-engineering project. Court Services is the lead agency developing requirements for a modern criminal justice information system to replace the rather old system we now have. The system would handle everything from booking through arrest processing through feeding information to the courts.

An interesting facet of CJIS is that the state Administrative Office of the Courts is interested in participating. We hope to build a model case management court system that will meet both state and local needs. It's a rather ambitious project.

IST has been upgrading and modernizing Social Services Department systems for a couple of years, and we have about another year and a half to go in that effort. The systems handle case management, client tracking and reporting.

Another major project is a land development project we're running with our Engineering and Building Standards Department. We're planning a series of about 12 subsystems for that (see story below).

We run a three-tier setup for most of our systems. We write applications in Visual Basic to run under Microsoft Windows 98 with Windows NT as the application server. We plan to migrate to Windows 2000 around midyear. Databases are Microsoft SQL Server on the client-server side and IBM DB2 on the mainframe side.

Applications'Two divisions that divide responsibilities for app services by agency

Data Center'Runs the city-county mainframe data center

Desktop/LAN'Supports client and LAN functions, including the help desk

Radio Services'Manages the public-safety radio network

Telecommunications'Supports voice and data communications

We completed a very nice geographic information system last year that was developed over a six-year period. We have digitized tax parcels, a street centerline file and about 100 layers of data. We've won a number of national and state awards for our Internet GIS applications.

We recently drew up a GIS strategic plan to figure out where we needed to go next. During this first year, we're figuring out how to better organize and govern GIS as an enterprise resource.

We're also creating a metadata process to keep data about our GIS data.

Net strategies

Like most governments, the Internet is a really big deal for us, a major strategic area. We already have several applications on the Internet at www.co.mecklenburg.nc.us, and we see Web-enabling most applications in one form or fashion.

Criminal Justice Information System'Will modernize criminal justice tasks and possibly integrate them with the state system

Internet Applications'Supports goal of making all government functions Web-accessible

Land Records'Will automate land development and property tasks through several interagency systems

Social Services'Updates systems that handle case management and related work

Our elections and voter registration office has a strong Internet presence. You as a citizen can key in your address and find out precinct, politician and voting location information.

Most of our tax information is online; you can view property maps and look up appraised value and that sort of thing. The Engineering and Building Standards Department site handles permitting and inspection scheduling.

Through the Park and Recreation Department site, you can find local parks and facilities. Our plan is to make reservations available online and allow credit card payment.

A local government must disseminate information to its citizens in various ways, and what better way is there than the Internet? We have a good infrastructure for the Internet, and now the challenge is to get those applications out there to serve the public.


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