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COMPUTERS SPAWN NEED FOR MORE HELP

Computers - while getting the credit for keeping Orem's staff "lean and mean" the past few years - are also getting the blame for pushing up requests for additional personnel this next budget year.

City department heads hope to hire 14 people, three of whom will be involved in programming, maintenance or assistance with computer services.And while Phil Goodrich, director of administrative services, said Orem's use of the computer has ballooned to 140 personal computers and 94 different user systems, some members of the City Council don't understand the cost justification.

"I don't understand why you need this," said Councilwoman Judy Bell at a work session for the council Tuesday night. Bell said it might make more sense to hire people specifically to maintain the hardware rather than hire programmers.

City manager Michael Dyal explained that programmers traditionally maintain the programs, and it's difficult to separate the skills and expertise involved.

Goodrich said as employees have become more comfortable with computers the need for more services has increased. Department heads are beginning to understand the capabilities and possibilities, he said.

While that is positive, Goodrich said it is increasing the demand on the data processing unit, exceeding the unit's ability to provide help.

At the same time, the library is asking for help as is the public safety department.

The city recorder's office is changing over to an optical scan system that will eventually put all essential records onto optical discs. More and more city business is done on computer, from utility billing to recording city council minutes to filing legal briefs.

Eventually business license applicants will be able to come into Orem and do "one-stop shopping" as they get a license, state permits and a tax number through the computer hookup to the state's software.

Goodrich said much of the city's software has been specifically designed to work for Orem and cannot be "hired" or bought from outside companies. He said Orem currently sells its software to other cities and realizes some revenue from those sales.

At the same time, Goodrich said the city buys its own share of commercial products and has a site license for WordPerfect products - as per an agreement with the software company that originally did some early program development on city computers.

"You have to understand you're in the middle of a revolution here," said Dick Beeson, director of library services, in response to Bell's concerns. "This is where we are whether we like it or not."

Beeson explained that the library - in the business of storing and retrieving information - has been swept up in the technology. It now depends on CD-Rom storage, Dynix software and online services.

"Our needs are different from the city because our systems differ, but we need one, too," Beeson said as programmers were discussed.