State closing in on new home for IT operations

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is closing in on a new home for the state’s data processing operation, which is expected to leave its East Hartford home when the current lease expires in 2015.

The State Bond Commission released $250,000 Friday, to be combined with $2.5 million previously approved for new site acquisition. Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Donald J. DeFronzo confirmed that his agency has been negotiating to acquire a new, privately owned site, though he declined to identify the location.

“We’re well into the process, so hopefully it will be resolved relatively soon,” said DeFronzo, who added it could be acquired this calendar year. “Our goal is definitely to be out of the present site by the end of the lease, or earlier if possible.”

State officials have been talking for the past four years about moving data processing operations from the office building, where it has leased space since January 2002.

State data center in East Hartford

The state’s data center at 101 East River Drive in East Hartford

The Bureau of Enterprise, Systems and Technology, formerly known as the Department of Information Technology until it was merged with Administrative Services in 2011, has indicated that data processing demands have grown dramatically since the mid-2000s.

The state currently leases about 192,000 square feet of space for offices and data processing equipment at the East Hartford site at an annual charge of just under $5 million.

“It’s an expensive lease,” DeFronzo said, adding that he believes the site his agency is targeting now is “larger, more secure and more appropriate to our needs.”

The commissioner added that while the department is determined to find a new home for IT services, it’s not clear whether all bureau staff will be assigned to it. They also could be housed, he said, in existing state office space.

Technology officials have said that to remain at the East River Drive location, the state would need to invest $10 million or more in the site, particularly to develop enhanced electrical and cooling systems.

The legislature authorized up to $21 million in bonding back in 2010 to cover both acquisition of a new location, as well as upgrades to the new site and data processing network.

With $2.75 million of that total released to date for property acquisition and other related costs, $18.25 million remains for site and system upgrades.

Back in 2010, then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration had investigated moving technology operations to the Newington campus of the former Cedarcrest Hospital. The state closed the 103-bed psychiatric unit on that campus in January 2011.

DeFronzo said that while it’s not impossible that Cedarcrest could be reconsidered as a potential site for technology operations in the future, “I think it’s clear that the state is more interested right now in developing that for economic development purposes.”