Mukilteo has recovered almost all of the data lost after a recent crash of the city’s computer system.
The city found out recently that it will get more than 95 percent of its information back, which includes its financial system, criminal evidence photos, audio recordings, grant information and other city files.
“There is relief,” City Administrator Joe Hannan said. “Most people have been saying, ‘Let’s not have that happen again.’”
It cost the city $36,000 to retrieve the information from five failed hard drives, Finance Director Scott James said.
The city is now looking to spend an estimated $171,500 on a new system, James said.
The system failed back in April, resulting in the loss of about 1.5 terabytes of data.
At first, the damaged hard drives were sent to the company Secure Data Recovery, which has an office in Seattle. The company “called it quits” after a month, but charged the city $6,000 for trying, said James, who oversees the IT department.
The hard drives were then sent to Kroll Ontrack in Minnesota, which had been recommended by the failed system’s manufacturer, Dell.
James said staff had decided to go with Secure Data Recovery first because it was local and less expensive. They later found out, however, that the company actually has offices all over the United States.
The City Council plans to discuss the new system at the July 2 meeting, Hannan said. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way.
“That goes to relieving some of the fears of having a meltdown again,” James said. “That’s one of our biggest concerns.”
Councilmember Kevin Stoltz, also an IT expert, said an even bigger concern should be figuring out what caused the crash.
“Without identifying a path and actually what caused the other system to go, I think that’s kind of reckless to spend $170,000-$180,000,” he said. “It’s a lot of money to throw at something when you haven’t really identified what caused the problem.”
James said the city’s plans to replace and upgrade the computer system – which includes off-site backup – would help prevent or limit data loss in the future. The previous system did not have off-site backup.
For now, he said, the city is reconstructing some of its lost data, including tape and virtual backups.
Stoltz said he would like to see more options and a phased approach to replace the computer system.
“We need off-site backups,” he said. “You should never be without an off-site backup.”
The crash was triggered by a cooling system failure last summer that led to the overheating of the server room, where the city’s hard drives are stored. Five hard drives, nine virtual servers, and at least two backup devices failed on April 4.
Stoltz said a system had been set up to give email notifications to staff if drives start to fail, but “nobody was looking for the notification.”
“You have to look at your email,” he said. “That’s not a reason to go out and buy all new equipment.”
James said he, other IT staff and the city administrator would get the notifications with the new system.
Two months before the crash, the city’s network engineer left for another job. The IT manager – the only other information technology staff member – had been busy working on the city’s fiber-optic line, Hannan said.
City staff had included requests for help in previous budgets, but they were not included in the mayor’s budget and were not seen by the City Council.
One request was for a temporary help-desk position that now has been approved, Hannan said. The other was for $3,000 for off-site backup, he said.
Before he left, the network engineer, who has yet to be replaced, demonstrated the city’s vulnerability by hacking into the city’s network and accessing files containing social security numbers and other information.
A temporary network engineer has now helped to secure city files with personal information, Hannan said.
Visitors to Lighthouse Park may have to pay for parking next summer, maybe sooner.
More than 1,000 vehicles go through the waterfront park each day on the weekends during spring and summer. Anyone who has visited knows that there isn’t enough parking to meet the demand on a sunny Saturday.
The park has 337 parking spots, plus 32 boat-trailer spaces for those using the boat launch.
Ever since Mukilteo took over the park from the state and renovated it – adding a playground, picnic shelters, restrooms and other amenities – it has become even more popular.
“Lighthouse Park is very, very popular, and it has a lot of community demands for it that’s greater than the parking capacity there,” City Administrator Joe Hannan said. “It’s too popular.”
On a sunny weekend, it’s not uncommon for someone to spend an hour in the car just trying to get through the parking lot.
The city has doubled parking fines, has an employee to monitor the parking lot, and sends a police officer to direct traffic on busy days. It helps with the problem, but it all costs money.
Yearly maintenance and operation of the park costs $175,000.
The city has been reviewing its paid parking options, which would relieve congestion and make money for the city. With one option, revenues over the next year are estimated at nearly $110,000.
That option uses three automated parking machines. Visitors would pay $1.50 an hour to park. Visitors could pay with credit or debit card, print out a parking slip and put it on the dash of their car window. A contracted parking company would manage the meters.
Residents could buy an annual $30 parking pass that gives them four hours of free parking per day. Parking would also be free on Wednesdays, for the weekly Farmers Market.
It is likely that the City Council will review the proposal this month, Hannan said.
Council President Richard Emery is in favor of free parking on Wednesdays and a resident parking pass, though he has yet to support any particular hourly parking or pass fees.
“I don’t think it’s equitable that residents can’t access a park in their own city,” Emery said. “ So hopefully this will free up the parking lot for our residents.”
Hannan said the proposed system is similar to those used in Seattle, Everett and Bremerton.
Other options include installing a pay box system with slots for each space or using an annual pass like the state parks do.
“This is for traffic control,” he said. “We think that’s going to happen by the fact that people are paying where they haven’t before. That’s going to eliminate some people coming down to the park.”
The hope is that visitors will start using public transit, shuttles and carpools or walk to the park, Hannan said.
“It’s changing people’s mind sets,” he said. “We’ve got this beautiful resource, we’ve made it even more gorgeous by improving it, and now we have too many people wanting to come here.”
Emery said he’d like to discuss whether the meters would be used year-round and whether to charge for parking downtown, such as on Front and Park streets.
“A lot of Americans think that parking should be free all of the time, everywhere they go. When they have to pay, some people are going to go to a place they don’t have to pay,” he said.
“Parking in those places is already pretty competitive, so that’s going to make it worse.”
Depending on who you listen to, you may be under the impression that the city is managing its finances well because we are staying within our budget, revenue sources are at or exceeding budget expectations, and we have a plan in place to eliminate the budget “gap” within the next couple of years.
But it’s not quite that easy, and the path we’re currently on will cost you money and decrease services.
There are basically two areas of the city’s 2012 budget that have deficit spending: the general fund and the REET1 (Real Estate Excise Tax) fund.
While the city uses the term “gap” instead of deficit spending they are both the same and are where the operating expenses in the fund exceed the operating revenue into that fund.
In the 2012 budget, the general fund revenues are expected to be $12,445,766 and the expenditures $12,793,590 for a deficit of $347,824.
The deficit in the REET1 fund isn’t quite as straightforward. Those who thought the community center debate would be over once the decision to build it was made are likely disappointed and will be for the next 20 years.
That’s because the largest expenditure in the city’s history was financed at 100 percent with most of the payments coming from the REET1 fund, which is also used for other capital public safety projects, including sidewalks, streets and parkland acquisition (like Japanese Gulch).
Unfortunately, the 2012 projected revenue into the REET1 fund is $417,000, while the payments (debt service) for the community center alone are $905,650 for a deficit of $488,650.
Add to that an additional $425,745 in REET1 spending (this represents over a 10 fold increase from 2011 which was $40,200), and now the 2012 deficit in the REET1 fund is a whopping $914,395.
Combined, these two funds are spending $1,262,219 more than the city is taking in. The obvious question you’re probably asking is where does the extra money come from?
It comes from the beginning fund balance, which is currently $4,468,000 for the general fund and $4,582,770 for the REET1 fund. These amounts are used to “balance” the budget.
The city has a long range financial plan developed by a committee and adopted by the council that is intended to get the spending problem under control. Unfortunately, what many believe is adhering to the long range financial plan is in reality preventing the responsible daily management of the city’s finances.
This became disturbingly obvious to me when the council not only dismissed a recently proposed council balanced budget resolution but actually voted against even putting it on a future agenda for discussion.
Whenever a long range plan is used as an excuse for irresponsible short term management, you have a problem. We have a problem.
We have a full time mayor, city administrator and finance director. It’s their job to bring a balanced budget before the council.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with requiring the mayor and his staff to show the council what an actual balanced budget would look like if they had to balance it today. It’s then up to the council to decide if the pain associated with a balanced budget is too great.
Unlike many cities, Mukilteo’s council or even finance committee isn’t included in the actual budget planning process. The mayor and his staff decide what budget proposals and requests come before the council and which don’t.
As a result, during the budget hearings each year, the council gets caught up in debating minor items that really amount to little more than “rubber stamping” the mayor’s proposed budget.
Recently we have had an IT (Information Technology) disaster and have lost critical city records including financial data and internal and public records.
The problem is the result of an accumulation of poor management decisions by the mayor and his management team.
Not only were suggestions from the IT manager not addressed or followed up on, IT requests were blocked from coming before the council. I’m very critical of this situation because I’m in the IT business.
Now staff members are being instructed not to talk to councilmembers (or maybe it’s just me), which makes me even more critical. The reality is, the leadership is covering their backsides because “heads would roll” if this happened in the real world.
Speaking of which, when the Mukilteo accounting services manager allegedly made that comment (as stated in the letter of reprimand she received), she was called into her supervisor’s office and chose to quit rather continue to work under these adverse conditions.
That’s a big loss for the city, considering she was heading up the effort to rebuild the city’s financial data from the last backup of Dec. 15 in preparation for the state auditor’s 2011 audit.
The city is on the verge of losing other employees as a result of how IT has been managed and the inevitable fallout. The irony is that outside of the Mukilteo bubble, heads would roll, and they’d be the heads of those who kept critical information from the board (i.e. council).
This is all going to cost us money, and I’m sorry to say, you get to pay for it.
To discuss this or any other city issue you’re interested in, please join Councilmember Schmalz and myself next Thursday, May 17, between 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Rosehill room at the community center.
The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.
The Rosehill Community Center recently received the Facility Spotlight Award from the Washington Recreation and Parks Association. The award was presented at the association’s annual conference on May 3.
“All the hard work by the Mukilteo City Council, the Design Committee, ARC Architects, and the city staff paid off with a beautiful building that offers recreation and rental opportunities to the community,” said Jennifer Berner, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, who accepted the award on behalf of the city.
The WRPA committee was impressed by Rosehill’s signature spaces, how each room captures the stunning view of the water, and the high numbers the community center accomplished in its first year of operation.
Rosehill saw a 35 percent increase in the number of recreation programs offered, a 45 percent increase in recreation program participation, and exceeding revenue projections by $78,000. The Lodging Tax Fund also had a $20,000 increase as a result of Rosehill’s first year of operation.
The criteria for the award was: community needs and design objectives, obstacles the project encountered and how they were overcome, how the finished project reflects outstanding use of the site, and how the project demonstrates the character of the community and how it is committed to parks and recreation.
The Washington Parks and Recreation Awards Committee was made up of professionals from all over the state.