Andover will hire a chief information officer this winter, the first step in creating a townwide information technology department.

Consolidation of the town's four technology departments — library, public safety, schools and town — has been discussed for years. This week, selectmen and the School Committee voted to endorse the hiring of a chief information officer who will oversee the transition and, eventually, one centralized IT department.

Andover's human resources department and information technology committee will work on creating a job description for the CIO position this month. If the town manager and superintendent approve the job description, it will be posted and a candidate could be hired to start in January 2011. The CIO position will be full-time and report to Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski.

For the six months of fiscal year 2011, which ends June 30, the CIO's salary will be mined from the existing school and town operating budgets. For fiscal year 2012, the CIO's salary will be incorporated into the town operating budget.

Eventually, consolidation would create one centralized help desk for service of technology problems and would coordinate departments that currently do not share employees, software and other resources.

"Exciting times are ahead," said School Committee member David Birnbach after the July 26 vote was taken to hire the CIO.

"I'm pretty jazzed," agreed Selectman Chairman Jerry Stabile Jr. "I know what an overhaul of IT will do."

The move comes after consulting firm Blum Shapiro did an in-depth study of Andover's technology departments and infrastructure this spring, creating a five-year strategic information technology plan.

The plan recommended hiring a CIO as the first step in a long-term process to reorganize, update and streamline Andover's information technology structure.

Blum Shapiro was hired for $50,000 and used many volunteer hours and input from the information technology committee, comprised of Andover citizens.

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue stressed that his committee's vote to hire a CIO does not imply endorsement of any of the specifics of the technology plan. The committee has yet to consider all the details of the more than 100-page report, Forgue said Monday night.

To view the information technology plan, go to andoverma.gov and click on the link in the "what's new" box.

Andover's four information technology departments

Town: 4.2 full-time equivalent employees, 150 workstations and 125 users

Schools: 10 FTE's, 6,100 students, 1,050 adult users and 2,500 computers

Public Safety: 1.5 FTE's, 130 workstations

Memorial Hall Library: 2 FTE's, 60 users and 90 workstations

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