Forest Preserve to get technology upgrade

Tribune reporter

Cook County Forest Preserve District workers soon will be getting e-mail addresses, performance reviews and clear descriptions of their jobs.

The reforms were outlined today by Board President Toni Preckwinkle and General Superintendent Arnold Randall, who were responding to a recent audit of the district that found it disorganized and woefully behind in technology.

Some employees probably have been using their own computers, said Randall, who compared the district’s technology to that of the 1980s.

“People shouldn’t have to use their own tools to do their jobs,” Randall said.

Officials will build an internal system to share information, store data and archives, and upgrade the district’s legal software.

“We’re the forest preserve, so we don’t need to be a university,” Randall said. “But, frankly, technology helps.”

The district’s 450 employees will begin swiping in and out of work.

Managers will be trained. Senior staff will conduct regular meetings, which weren’t taking place when Randall came on board after Preckwinkle took office in December.

“For too long, the forest preserve has been adrift, without strong leadership, or a long-term comprehensive strategy,” Preckwinkle said. “It’s time for the forest preserve district, just like every other government agency, to take a hard look at its core functions and to figure out ways to improve and streamline its work.”

Officials could not put a price tag yet on how much the changes will cost, but Randall said that money would likely come out of the district’s reserves. Some of the changes will be part of next year’s budget, he said.

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