Officials approve computer upgrade to handle welfare, child support and state budget systems

Another $1.2 million will go to improve the main frame computer that handles the welfare, child support and the state budget systems.

Department of Information technology Director Terry Savage told Interim Finance Committee members on Tuesday that the first series of upgrades Aug. 28 improved the performance of the computer significantly but that, already, it is hitting 80 percent usage.

"And we are consistently seeing spikes above 80 percent," he said.

"We'll need to upgrade from an R-46 to R-56 configuration within the next four to six weeks," he told the committee.

The committee, composed of members of the Assembly and Senate money committees, voted to support the upgrade with the exception of Sen. Bill O'Donnell, R-Las Vegas, who said it is pointless to continue supporting NOMADS, the unified welfare and child support system computer.

"It's costing $12 to $14 million a year to operate NOMADS," said O'Donnell, pointing out that the system is responsible for half the draw on the state's computer system. "If we stop NOMADS and go a different route, the state will have lots of capacity.

"To continue to buy more and more computer power for an antiquated system is a mistake," he said. "I believe in my heart this is a failed system."

Committee Chairman Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, questioned what would happen if the state tried to drop the program.

"What would happen if we just pull the plug and let it die?"

NOMADS Administrator Mike Willden said the system was developed to meet federal demands and that the state would face even larger penalties if the system was dumped. He also said he believes the system is working and said certification documents will be mailed to the federal government within a week.

Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said he understands O'Donnell's frustration with a system that has now cost more than $130 million but that the state needs to move forward.

"In this case, we have a tremendous cost that hurts very badly when you think of the number of schools that could have been built with that money," he said.

He urged lawmakers to approve the expansion of computer power, agreeing with Savage that the computer will be needed in the future even without NOMADS.


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