NCFPD renews IT contract with City of Oceanside

The North County Fire Protection District board voted 5-0 Feb. 19 to approve a new Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Oceanside which will provide information technology services to the fire district.

The MOU will be in effect from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2016. NCFPD will pay $82,000 for the first year, or $6,833.34 per month. In subsequent years the payment amount will be increased based on the San Diego Consumer Price Index rate. NCFPD will also pay $75 per hour for specialized system enhancements, troubleshooting, or other non-routine work.

In August 2010, the NCFPD board approved an MOU with the City of Oceanside for information technology support. “It’s turned out to be a very good thing,” said NCFPD Fire Chief Bill Metcalf. “It’s been a very good relationship for us and we get great customer service at a very cost-effective rate.”

NCFPD had previously contracted with private companies for information technology support. “We’re not big enough to afford our own IT department,” Metcalf said.

The experience with private vendors proved unsatisfactory, not only in terms of level of service but also resulting in outdated hardware and software and the misuse of proprietary software licensing. Less than six months after the district purchased an internal network server from a private vendor for approximately $20,000, not including the vendor’s charge to install and set up the server, the maximum user and services capacity were exceeded and became outdated.

The City of Oceanside has an information technology department comprised of full-time staff which can provide all-hours service. Since the city’s information technology department already provided service to Oceanside’s fire department, it had experience with the needs of fire department information technology such as dispatch and response-related software and hardware including computers on fire engines.

The City of Oceanside’s information technology department began servicing the computers on NCFPD engines as well as at the district’s fire stations and administrative offices. Oceanside information technology staff also provided support for NCFPD’s printers, fax machines, telephone system, and the website.

“If something broke they’d come and fix it,” Metcalf said.

“It’s grown into a more comprehensive managing our technology need,” Metcalf said. “It’s turned into a very comprehensive agreement.”

The original agreement called for NCFPD and City of Oceanside staff to review the arrangement after a year.

“The original agreement we weren’t really sure how it would work out and how it would grow,” Metcalf said.

The fire district and city agreed to continue the agreement after the first year. “As we’ve learned more about each other we’ve been able to capitalize on additional opportunities,” Metcalf said.

The City of Oceanside has enhanced the fire district’s information technology. The city’s information technology staff fully mitigated the fire district’s licensing liability to Microsoft, Adobe, Dell, and other vendors, which could have resulted in thousands of dollars in civil penalties had the situation not been settled. The city staff also provided three upgraded network servers, including installation, and also provided and installed five backup servers to add redundancy to the district’s exchange server, SQL (Structured Query Language) server, and Windows file system. The city has also included the fire district in its licensing purchasing agreements, allowing the district to take advantage of bulk license rates.

The new three-year agreement utilizes some of the additional collaborative possibilities. The marquee sign at the administration building, which did not exist when the original agreement was signed, has been added to the agreement.

“I think it’s a great example of two government entities coming together and being able to achieve some economies of scale that we wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise,” Metcalf said.

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