Commissioners considering a new communication system

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, January 15, 2019

DOWAGIAC — Cass County is looking at updating its email technology.

During Thursday’s upcoming Cass County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board is scheduled to discuss changing the county government’s email system. Currently, the county uses the Zimbra email platform, as provided by Due to issues with the platform, county employees are asking that the board of commissioners approve the purchase of a new email system, such as Microsoft Office 365. The total cost of a switch to a new system could cost $108,864, according to information provided by Kerry Collins, information systems director for the county, at last week’s board meeting where the issue was discussed.

Interruptions with the system have been ongoing since November 2018, according to Collins. The latest issues with the current system began on Dec. 26, 2018. The problems are preventing county employees and other users from accessing email and seeing shared calendars. The issues are also kicking users off of the email system.

“Email has grown into something we cannot skimp on anymore,” Collins said. “We have to do this.”

Chief Judge Susan Dobrich called the email issue “an emergency,” as court officials have missed meetings and essential correspondence, such as court hearing announcements, has not gone through.

“We are unable to operate in many respects,” she said. “We have important business we have to conduct. Right now, we cannot conduct business. Email is critical. … We want a new system.”

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz agreed.

“This is a really serious matter,” he said. “We need to have something that works. … If we don’t get a police report from the sheriff’s office or my attorneys can’t access what the sheriff’s department provides on the system, bad things will happen.”

Though Collins acknowledged the expense of an email system switch, he said that switching to Microsoft Office 365 is the right choice for the county as it establishes a software standard that matches what the state of Michigan uses, exposes employees to the latest software technologies and allows the county to focus training on a single version of software. He added that with Microsoft Office 365, not only would the county be getting email services, but it would also be able to update to the latest versions of other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Word.

“Is it expensive? It has a cost to it,” he said. “It is a part of doing business.”

The Cass County Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday at 120 N. Broadway St., Cassopolis. A Committee of the Whole meeting will take place at 4 p.m., followed by the regular board meeting at 7 p.m.