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Cortez approves $160,000 bid for IT infrastructure

Cortez drops 3-year deal with city employee’s company

The Cortez City Council on Tuesday awarded Advanced Network Management Inc. a $160,000 contract for the construction of an information technology infrastructure.

Cortez-based Data Safe Services has provided the city’s backup technology and virtual desktop infrastructure since 2014, but Public Works Director Phil Johnson said the information technology department wanted to buy the equipment instead of continuing the lease. Advanced Network Management, which is based in Albuquerque, beat out Centennial-based Sentinel and California-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. The council unanimously approved the purchase of infrastructure for $167,176.69.

“This is to ... eliminate outsourcing this service, and have all our city business in-house,” Johnson told the council.

In his recommendation, Johnson wrote that the purchase would “provide a more efficient solution” to the city’s IT needs. Advanced Network will install the hardware and software, but the city will own it. Since the city budgeted about $179,000 for IT equipment this year, Johnson asked that the remaining $11,800 be used to buy three hard drives, which would boost the city’s data storage to 25 terabytes of storage, compared with the 14TB they have now.

“I don’t want to come here in a year and say, ‘You know what, we didn’t build a big enough system,’” he said.

The hard drives would leave room for expansion in the city’s computer system, he said. City Manager Shane Hale said the Cortez Police Department takes up a large amount of the city’s data storage because of the hours of recordings they download from officers’ cameras.

“Personally, I think it’s prudent,” Mayor Karen Sheek said.

In May 2014, Data Safe outbid Information Systems Consulting and Cloud My Office for the contract, according to Sheek. Although the bidding process called for a one-year contract, the city accepted a three-year contract with Data Safe because it offered a reduced price.

Cortez originally agreed to pay the company a monthly fee of $8,250, but according to Johnson, payments increased, reaching $11,579.60 per month, or $138,955.20 per year, as the city added servers and desktop licenses.

According to its website, Data Safe Services is owned by Rick A. Smith, the city of Cortez’s general services director, and Rick K. Smith, the former mayor of Bayfield. The company provided similar infrastructure for Bayfield while Smith was its mayor, and Montezuma County still has a contract with Data Safe to supply virtual servers.

Rick A. Smith refused to answer questions about the services that Data Safe provided to the city or whether he signed off on their actions in his role as Cortez’s general services director.

“I’m kind of out of the loop on all of that,” he said.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State website, Data Safe was incorporated on Sept. 1, 2012. The company shares an office with one of its clients, Maley and Associates, on Main Street in Cortez.

Both Sheek and Johnson said there has never been a conflict of interest in the city’s contract with Data Safe because Rick A. Smith was kept separate from all decisions. He didn’t write or vote on the original bid, according to minutes from the May 13 city council meeting where it was accepted. Instead, Rick K. Smith handled business with Cortez, while Rick A. Smith did the same for Data Safe’s contract with Bayfield. The council, which in 2014 included Sheek, Bob Archibeque, Ty Keel, Orly Lucero, Shawna McLaughlin and Jim Price, voted unanimously to approve the contract.

Data Safe’s contract with the city ends in May, and it did not offer a bid for the new servers. Johnson said the contract with Data Safe worked well for a while, but the city was looking for a company with different qualifications this time.

“When we put this out to bid, what our goal was is to get companies that have direct affiliations with hardware providers,” he said. “They’re large-scale, and they can get really discounted rates for that hardware.”

He said Advanced fit that bill with its ties to large hardware companies like Cisco, Dell and Microsoft. The city plans to do all its computer maintenance in-house.

The IT department has already started the switch to the new hardware, and Johnson hopes to have it ready a month before the contract with Data Safe ends, to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

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