By Katia Protsenko

The Santa Cruz City Council recently approved spending over $1.5 million to bring the city’s technology systems up to date. The plan requires approximately $1 million to update the current computer system and an additional $400,000 to create a new Information Technology Department.

The Information Technology Department, comprised of three new staff members, will work to create a system enabling Santa Cruz citizens to handle their city business online. Under the new system, residents will be able to pay parking tickets, garbage bills, and report necessary maintenance and repairs from their home computers.

The plans calles for the replacement of the city’s HP3000 computer system, which dates back to the 1980s. Assistant City Manger Martin Bernal called the HP3000 a ticking time bomb that has become annoyance to repair and prone to fail.

“We don’t have a choice. If the system breaks, we don’t have the tools to operate,” he said. “[The updates will] allow us to continue to function.”

Bernal added that the city will open a competitive bidding process for server upgrades in hopes of keeping the cost of the project down.

Though such upgrades are necessary in a technologically savvy modern world, some residents are concerned about the high price of these additions.

“It’s kind of a lot of money to spend,” said Courtney Morris, a 27-year-old Santa Cruz resident.

Councilmember Mike Rotkin agreed that upgrades do carry a heavy price tag, but reasoned that the council is constantly weighing cost against city and

community need.

“[The council has to] balance responding to the need for community services with maintaining infrastructure,” Rotkin said. “We’re trying to bring [city technology] to the 21st century.”

Bernal believes that upgrades are worth the expense because they should last well into the future.

“The information technology changes will cost approximately $1 million, but it’s a one-time cost,” he said. “There will be maintenance requirements, but not significant ones.”

Bernal also emphasized that upgrades will significantly improve city operations.	“Customer service will be improved,” he said. “New technology will improve operations. Online access will be more efficient, with quicker updates and processing [of forms and requests for city services].”

Pete Perez, who helps run a bed and breakfast in Santa Cruz, thinks that a new system will be extremely convenient for dealing with parking tickets and other

city business.

“But if you want to contest the ticket, you can’t do that online,” Perez added. “Some things will always have to be done in person.”