Council OK security upgrades, voting system

Council OK security upgrades, voting systemBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest City Council approved $65,000 to improve the city’s network and building security last Wednesday during it’s regular meeting. There was no question from the public whether or not the city should spend the money to improve it’s aging security systems and the item was unanimously approved.

“Most of these systems are going upwards of 10 years old,” said Acting Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, who presented the item. “They are very outdated. They are constantly giving problems to the IT guys.”

According to the staff report, the city needs $40,000 to upgrade its network firewall and switches, which monitor and control communications in and out of the city, in addition to other cabling and network devices.

General building security, such as access control and surveillance systems, will be $25,000.

The costs are budgeted to come out of unallocated Tax Allocation Bond funds.

Council also approved $5,000 for a new voting system. The approved OptionPower Voting Module, similar to the one currently used by the Indian Wells Valley Water District, is a computer system that allows board members to cast their votes without “undue influence” from other members.

“I still don’t understand the need for it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower. “I guess I’d like to ask the city attorney – do most cities use this?”

City Attorney Keith Lemieux responded that most of them do.

“And let me tell you that having a system like this could help avoid errors that could cause violations of the Brown Act under the new laws,” he added.

Brown Act concerns are frequently broached at council meetings by certain members of the public. This particular item was brought recently up after a councilmember changed his vote at the last minute, swinging the result of the approval of sewer fee increases.

“This would improve the reporting in a way that would make it clear to the public in all cases,” said Lemieux.

Councilmember Wallace Martin advocated for the new system.

“It puts the sole responsibility of the voter on each individual member without being unduly influenced by the person to the left or right of them,” he said. “Seems to be very objective and fair. Five grand to me seems little to nothing. And I think it will also save time overall.”

Member of the public Mike Neel encouraged the use of such a system, but asked council to try and pursue a less expensive option.

The only dissent from the public came from Ron Porter, who said that a voting system is just “$5,000 we don’t need to spend.

“Every dollar we save is a good thing. It’s something we’re going to need to pay to maintain ... and we’ll eventually need to buy a new one. I just don’t see an advantage to it, and I don’t want to see you spending money on it.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden didn’t appear to wholly endorse the idea, but said she was open to an alternative way to record voting.

“To show that I don’t have the influence people think, I vote ‘no,’” said Mower, bringing some chuckles from the board and the audience.

The item passed 3-2, with Breeden also voting no.

Pictured: Interim Police Chief Jed McLaughlin makes a presentation at last week’s City Council meeting. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-09-15