Claremore kids of the 1990s, how many of you remember the Teen Center? A cavernous room with a white tile floor and a snack bar in the rear, where the junior high crowd danced to the latest jams amid pulsing colored lights on weekend nights, the hoppin’ social spot was located at City Hall.
In the time prior to that, I have recollections of my mom dragging me to the same location where she took evening aerobics classes. Later, the space was used as a courtroom (don’t ask how I know that).
Today, that portion of City Hall is nearly unrecognizable, as it contains a maze of offices for city officials and employees, like IT Director Tim White.
Tim is a Midwesterner all the way around; he was born in Enid, graduated high school in the Texas panhandle, then attended college in Springfield, Missouri. Later, Tim moved back to his roots and took a job in Midland, Texas, later skipping over to Dallas, and back to Lubbock before moving to Tulsa with his wife, JaNa.
The reason for returning to Oklahoma was for the Whites to be closer to family. Tim and JaNa have four children; three have attended Oral Roberts University, and the youngest is in 8th grade. JaNa is currently the director for Zebra Stripes at Roosa, and Tim holds the position of IT Director for the City of Claremore.
In a nutshell, if you’re a city employee and you have some kind of computer-related issue, you call Tim. Crashing email. Overloaded servers. Broken telephones. Software troubles. Tim and his assistant, Ger Xiong, are in charge of it all. There are approximately 160 workstations to be managed at 16 locations around the city. Plus there’s the whole fiber optic network.
There’s more to Tim’s job than just calling him because your mouse is broken or your printer is acting up.
Lately, a lot of Claremore citizens have been up in arms about higher utility bills. Tim has an explanation for that. There was a change in the city’s software billing system, which caused a couple of hiccups along the way. Out of the 13,500 city utility customers, there were issues with a few hundred, and all have been corrected. As far as the higher bills are concerned, there was a 1 – 2% increase. New meters are being installed, which means more accurate readings, thus explaining the higher bills.
By March 2015, “AMI” (Automated Meter Interface) meters will be installed to the 19,000 meters in the city. This is no small feat, and it will be achieved by a special crew from GE, who will install all the meters in a 90-day period. The final result will allow all meters to be read wirelessly. This will eliminate two of the four meter-reader positions, but those employees will be moved to other departments within the City of Claremore.
The city is moving forward in a variety of ways. Since Tim arrived three years ago, every computer and server operated by city employees has been replaced. He’s working on eliminating an aging infrastructure, which will allow Claremore to handle economic development and sustain growth. Moves like that are what enabled Baker-Hughes to complete their recent expansion. A new electric substation provided by the city allowed that to happen.
Another way that Claremore is advancing technologically is by allowing citizens to pay all bills and fines online. Got a speeding ticket? You can pay it online and avoid the trip to City Hall. Need to pay your utility bill? Save the gas, skip the lines and pay online. (There is a $3.25 credit card fee when paying online.)
Paying online has a few benefits; it saves the city money in labor costs, and there are fewer opportunities for human error. Additionally, the city used to cover the cost of the fee for customers, which was a staggering amount that can now be used in more beneficial ways.
Tim is enjoying his new life in Claremore, and loves that he gets to make a difference each day. He’s busy gearing up for the Great Meter Swap of 2015, and keeping busy in the field with technology snafus. And most of all, I’m sure he enjoys having an office in a space that was the site of so many junior high memories for Claremore’s now 30-somethings. I hear the snack bar is still in there, somewhere.
Keep it local, Claremore.
-MCM Staffer Ashley, who remembers the Teen Center as being too dark and too loud. Must be my father’s daughter after all.