County’s IT office in midst of change

After three years as Washington County’s IT director, Eric Skomra’s tendered his resignation to the county commissioners last week to take on a new position in Columbus. But he’s leaving the county in better shape-technologically-than when he began, say county officials.

“We hired Eric in June 2010, and he was very instrumental in bringing needed technology to the county,” former county commissioner Cora Marshall said Wednesday.

She recalled the words of former commissioner, the late Sam Cook, when Skomra was hired.

“Sam told Eric the county was at least 100 years behind in technology and he didn’t want to put a lot of stress on him, but he said Eric was young and felt he could take on the task of bringing the county up to date, as well as work with elected officials,” Marshall said.

She credited Skomra with putting a key IT team in place that will continue to move projects forward that the former IT director has initiated.

“He was an excellent project manager who could build a plan from ground zero,” Marshall said. “The new EOC (emergency operations center) is a good example of that.”

The center is currently under construction at the Children Services facility on Davis Avenue in Marietta.

“Eric played a big part in bringing the EOC project together,” said Jeff Lauer, director of the county’s emergency management agency.

“He did all the design on the fiber cabling that will feed the phone systems, Internet and disaster recovery backup unit that’s going in next door to the EOC,” he said.

County Commissioner David White said the disaster recovery backup system is a key project.

“It’s basically a whole set of servers that will duplicate everything done by county departments through a fiber network to the disaster recovery unit,” he said, adding that the data stored will be available for backup in case one of the county office computer systems goes down.

White also noted the county board of elections offices will be moving to the Davis Avenue location.

“And that move will have to take place before the November election,” he added.

Board of Elections director Tara Hupp said Skomra and his team had to design the fiber cable connections and computer outlets as well as work with the Ohio Secretary of State’s staff to determine what was needed to maintain computer communications with the state.

Hupp said although the general election won’t be held until November, the elections office should be moved in by early August to allow time to prepare for the election.

Another project in which Skomra played a key role was development of the county’s updated website, which earned an A-plus grade as a Top Transparency Website in 2013 from the state Sunshine Review earlier this month.

Skomra, along with other officials, began working to upgrade the county’s aging website in February 2011. That work resulted in a county contract in June 2012 with CivicPlus, a website design and hosting service company from Manhattan, N.Y., for the software, website hosting, design, and related services on the site.

During his three years as IT director, Skomra also assembled a team that included county systems administrator Gerry Lockhart, and technicians Lessa Grubbs and Donnie Rader.

Lockhart, who is currently serving as interim director, said the team will be busy working on projects, including the EOC, disaster recovery facility and board of elections move, that have already been initiated by Skomra before looking toward any future endeavors.

“One of those projects is to interconnect the various county locations, or campuses, with fiber cable,” he said, noting that will not only include connections from the county courthouse offices to the new Davis Avenue facilities, but also connections with the county jail and Job and Family Services offices on the west side of the Muskingum River.

“This will allow us to communicate through the county network or by phone, and it will also give us a choice when we upgrade the county’s phone system,” he said. “We also want to complete security wiring at the courthouse and installation of new generators at the new EOC and courthouse.”

Lockhart said the county website is up and running now, and noted that Skomra and the IT team worked with all of the county departments to develop the site.

“It looks really nice now, and each county department can now keep its information updated without having to rely on another department to do that work,” he said. “Another reason we thought developing a better website was important, in addition to easier use for local residents, was for tourists who are always looking for places to go or see in the county.”