PITTSFIELD, Ill. — Pike County Clerk Natalie Roseberry is tired of working around information technology problems in her office, so she reached out to Adams County for a solution.
The counties are working on a proposal for an intergovernmental agreement giving Adams County the authority to oversee IT infrastructure and be the administrator of services for Pike County.
David Hochgraber, senior network administrator for Adams County, said he first learned of Pike County’s IT problems from Roseberry in late October. Notification from the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology soon followed.
Roseberry said she first learned of the problem on Dec. 1, 2018 — her first day in office.
“It’s been an ongoing IT nightmare in the government building for quite some time now,” she said.
Lightning strike causes multiple problems in clerk’s office
A lightning strike in July left the office without stable internet for four weeks, phones for eight weeks and the inability to connect to state board of election for 16 weeks. Before those problems, Roseberry said the county also had two data breaches. One was with an on-site server on property records. The other was with an off-site server in reference to payroll, budgets and accounts payable.
When elected, Roseberry said the computer in her office was from 2012. Most of the other office computers were from 2015. She also soon learned the Illinois State Board of Elections wanted counties be connected to the Illinois Century Network — a direct connection from election machines back to Illinois State Board of Elections to communicate voter updates.
“That was a big issue because (the ICN) runs on a separate network. We realized we weren’t set up to split that off,” she said. “We would go four to five months with things working. Then almost the slightest upgrade on a back-end server or something would throw the whole building out of whack.
“What we’ve done is consistently tried to piece things together with various vendors that we’ve utilized. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the lightning strikes. When we tried to work on rebuilding, we realized multiple hands and an IT network had worked in this. Nothing was fluid. It was basically out of self-preservation that I was angry enough that I started reaching out to different county clerks to talk about solutions.”
Cost of proposed agreement not yet determined
Roseberry noted at a countywide GIS/IT meeting earlier this month that a member of the Pike County Board said “there are offices in the county way more important for security than elections. Elections are not that important compared to other county business.”
“The very reason you are here today is election security. There are very few things more important than that,” Roseberry said.
Roseberry and Hochgraber both say it’s too early to know how much the proposed agreement will cost. Roseberry believes working with Adams County is the best solution because county officials will be speaking the same language.
“Adams County already is well versed in the programs we use. That means it should be somewhat of a fluid transition, as opposed to having an outside company that may or may not work directly with governments trying to work with these vendors,” Roseberry said.
Hochgraber believes the improvements of the servers and infrastructure will be eligible for federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“Pike County outsources most of its IT work, if not all, and we have a full-time help desk,” Hochgraber said. “With 911, the jail and the sheriff’s department, we have someone on call 24/7, so it makes sense (for Pike County). A lot of the software we use and they use are the same. We’re not having to relearn the nuts and bolts of the software.”
Both sides hoping for long-term arrangement
Pike County needs its problems solved by the April 2022 election.
“This is going to take place on top of the workload we’re already doing here,” Hochgraber said. “This will definitely take attention once an agreement gets put in place. But we can certainly help them out.”
Both sides want this to be a long-term arrangement.
“I’m not looking to come in, fix and walk away,” Hochgraber said. “(Pike County needs) someone who’s more proactive. We keep up with security policies as humanly possible. In today’s world with ransomware and all the hacking you hear all over the news, what we plan to do is right to the forefront.”
“I would be reluctant to speak for the Pike County Board and the GIS/IT committee. From my office’s standpoint, I would be happy to see this be a permanent solution to our issues,” Roseberry said. “Once we look at our network configurations and we whip everything into shape, any problems should be about 90 percent able to be solved remotely. We’re projecting it would really reduce our immediate IT costs.”