Oak Creek -- The city Oak Creek is now connected along Drexel Avenue to the city of South Milwaukee via fiber optic cable following an agreement passed at a Nov. 15 common council meeting.
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said South Milwaukee approved the resolution at its last common council meeting.
The agreement interconnects the two municipalities making for easier communication. The link allows for more interconnectivity within the municipalities as well. For example, cameras and internet could be brought to Abendschein Park, according to Oak Creek's Information Technology Manager Caesar Geiger.
Additionally, if a connection is made to the Department of Transportation several more cities could be linked, Geiger said.
South Milwaukee did the installation while Oak Creek supplied some of the fiber optic cable. Ironically, the project is designed to allow for better connectivity and communication, however, some alderman were concerned they were unaware the cable had already been installed.
"It's a spur under my saddle nobody heard," said Alderman Dan Bukiewicz.
Geiger said the city was aware of what was going on and it was in the city administrator reports. He said he made the assumption the information was included in the reports to the common council.
Alderman Mark Verhalen was also upset the council didn't know when the cable was being installed.
"It's a sad day when the elected officials are the last to find out," he said.
Scaffidi told Geiger that communication could have been better on the issue.
Verhalen had previously also expressed concern that the city was entering into a long-term contract with South Milwaukee. He said technology changes so fast and he wasn't fully confident fiber optics would be as popular in the future.
"Fiber has a life that will last definitely more than 20 years," Geiger said.
Geiger said it's one of the goals of the IT manager to interconnect, share data, sources, and other connections.
A partnership was also forged between the two municipalities for Oak Creek to conduct IT work for South Milwaukee.
Geiger said currently South Milwaukee uses an IT consultant and don't have a full IT department of their own. He added the systems are almost the same as those used by Oak Creek with similar hardware. Additionally, with the fiber optic link, much of the work can be completed remotely.
The agreement has Oak Creek dedicating 20 hours a month to South Milwaukee.
Alderman Steve Kurkowski questioned why the IT department had the time to dedicate five hours a week to another municipality. He said the impression could be taken that they either don't have enough work or have too many people.
Geiger countered, saying the IT workers aren't "moonlighting," saying it would be a mutually beneficial partnership. Not only would Oak Creek be getting paid for their services, but other benefits, such as sharing one server for both cities, could offer future cost-saving incentives. He said the IT department in Oak Creek is doing well and finally catching up on a backlog.
"It's mutually beneficial," Geiger said. "It's not that we're looking for extra work."
He added that emergencies will be treated equally for both communities and the city of Oak Creek will not be neglected with daily operations.
Oak Creek's Finance Director Bridget Souffrant said the departments were also tasked with finding new and creative revenue sources and this fits that request.
Scaffidi added that to just stay in the "silo" of Oak creek is "naive." He said the cities already work together, citing how Oak Creek already uses the services of South Milwaukee's health director.
The contract is a two-year deal that expires at the end of 2018.
Verhalen was the only vote against the partnership.