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OID Analyzes Tech Upgrades

POSTED October 4, 2011 9:26 p.m.

A need to further modernize and bring the Oakdale Irrigation District’s technical capabilities up to higher standards were on the agenda at the Oct. 4 regular meeting of the Board of Directors.
The OID board voted 4-0 in favor of doing a Request For Proposal (RFP), or bids, for a new network cabling project at the OID offices in order to run its software systems more efficiently. Director Al Bairos was absent.
OID General Manager Steve Knell said that people may ask why OID is putting money into its old building. He said that OID’s phones and Internet run on the same cable system and when one is down, that means both are down. OID’s IT/SCADA (Information Technology/Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) Coordinator Michael Ballinger said that due to OID’s new SCADA technology, its GIS (Geographic Information System), accounting program, AutoCad, and others, these programs are held back by the current system.
“It’s a bottleneck right now,” he said, adding that the performance of the system will be vastly improved with the upgrade.
While $75,000 was budgeted for the upgrade, Ballinger said he believes it can be done cheaper. The anticipated cost is approximately $50,000 with $15,000 in hardware, which is portable should OID relocate its offices, and $35,000 in cable installation and materials.
“If we’re ‘choking down’ our efficiency, we should probably rectify that,” said director Herman Doornenbal, also noting that he’d like to see it cost less.
In discussion items, Knell brought up the district’s need to do a better job of public education and outreach on issues that are relevant to the district. He said that he’d like to see the Ag message get across better in the community programs in which OID currently participates. He later added that OID could also do more in its participation with Ag programs locally such as 4-H and FFA because it can offer information and education about certain agricultural fields and promote the need for people to go into those fields.
“If you get involved with 4-H and FFA more, you’ll be surprised how many people you’ll reach,” said director Steve Webb.
Knell also said that OID can easily participate in Internet education about Ag water issues such as through podcasts and webcasts; however, he added that current staff doesn’t have the time or resources. He said he wants to hire a part time person or intern to start working on these outreach issues. Knell said that water rights in general is a complex subject and gestured that it’s over a lot of people’s heads, so it’s important to educate.
Director Jack Alpers commented that the OID’s recent Save The Stan campaign got a lot of feedback but he was disappointed with it overall, as people he talked to were confused by it. However, Knell and director Frank Clark both said they got positive feedback from people about the campaign.
“This is OID’s water and…we need to get people to understand what our water is really worth,” Doornenbal said, adding that OID needs to show people the benefit they get from it through agriculture.
Knell also noted the exploding population of the world and the effect that has on Ag because those people need to be fed.
“We need to bring back (the message) that agriculture is important to us all,” Knell said.
In other discussion, IT/SCADA Coordinator Ballinger gave a presentation to the board on OID’s computer network security. He noted that the City of Oakdale’s recent cyber security breach that resulted in more than $100,000 being stolen from its bank account is a testament of the importance of good, thorough cyber security. He later added that insurance, such as FDIC, will not cover such theft as it is deemed as negligence on the part of the victim.
His presentation covered how cyber crime occurs and how malware obtains information. He reported that cyber crime revenues exceed $1 trillion annually, which is more than organized crime and drug crime. He also discussed OID’s cyber security measures such as its firewall, antivirus software, updates, and computer policies and maintenance.
Ballinger also showed examples of e-mails that looked legitimate but actually contained malware or viruses. He also showed some that appear to be antivirus updates or operating system updates but are actually malware. He showed Mac computer viruses as well, even though Macs are considered less susceptible to viruses.
“No computer is safe from infection,” Ballinger said.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18 in the OID boardroom 1205 East F.

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