No votes delay purchase of money-saving software
November 17, 2004 - By MIKE ANTHONY
Two "no'' votes cast by Crestwood Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel delayed consideration of legislation to approve the lease of financial software until the Nov. 23 Board of Aldermen meeting.
City Administrator Don Greer recommended last week that the Board of Alder-men approve the two ordinances to lease the software for the city's Finance Department.
Miguel, however, voted "no'' on motions to conduct second readings of each ordinance, delaying final consideration of the measures until the next board meeting.
Under the City Charter, ordinances must be read twice before final passage and cannot be approved at the same meeting they are introduced unless the Board of Alder-men votes unanimously to do so.
Miguel declined to explain his "no'' votes when asked by Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher.
During a period for public comment later in the Nov. 9 meeting, resident David Brophy said he was "mystified'' by Miguel's "no'' votes, particularly after Mayor Tom Fa-gan had noted that Miguel would not be present at the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Nov. 23. Unless Mi-guel planned to personally explain his votes to each alderman, Brophy contended that Miguel was "obstructing'' the passage of the software.
In an Oct. 26 memorandum to the board, Greer wrote, "For a considerable time, the board has heard of the proliferation of problems with the city's current financial soft-ware package.''
After extensive research and review of both purchase and lease options, Director of Finance Diana Madrid recommended the city lease the financial software from Affil-iated Computer Services/Springbrook, Greer wrote.
ACS/Springbrook's bid of $113,200 was the lowest of four submitted and includes software licensing, data conversion and training/installation. As proposed, the annual amount of the five-year lease, which carries a 4.25 percent interest rate, would be $28,354.28.
An ordinance to approve the acquisition and installation of the software, conversion of existing data and training, along with a second ordinance authorizing a lease with the Koch Financial Corp. for the software will be considered by the board at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23, at City Hall.
At one point, aldermen voted 5-3 with Kelleher, Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe opposed, to conduct a special meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16, to consider the ordinances for the financial software. The board later rescinded that motion with Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox, who cannot attend the Nov. 23 meeting, opposed.
During a discussion of leasing the software, Ward 1 Al-derman Richard LaBore said, "... The only question I have is somebody's bound to ask the question along the line, can we afford this kind of an expenditure with the current fiscal situation we're wrestling with?''
Fagan said, "A better question may be can we afford not to? I think from our staff's perspective and maybe Mr. Greer or Miss Madrid can explain to people in greater detail what the problem is with our present software ...''
Greer said, "... For an extended period of time now, in particular, the finance staff has had to manually prepare reports, enter in and re-enter data ... and we spend overtime. We spend compensatory time. We have staff here on the weekends to do manual entry. I mean this is 2004 and we're doing manual entry of data that delays and complicates or I guess calls into question some of the accuracy of the information we get from the system, which necessitates then more manual entry and review, which delays the access to that accurate information. I mean it's November and we are finishing up or I guess the auditors are here for our '04 fiscal year audit, largely due to our, I want to say, inability to get a trial balance done because it all had to be done manually.
"... The mayor said, I think it's really more a question of can we afford not to do this. I don't know how long we can ask our staff to do this,'' Greer said.
Miguel peppered Greer with a litany of questions regarding the software, including if city staff spoke with or visited with customers who currently use the software.
Greer said, "Talked with, not visited ... The two applications that were probably closest, one was in Arkansas and one was in Chicago and we talked with users of the package, but did not do a site visit. Didn't do a site visit, didn't send them simply because of the cost involved and the time. They really can't take the time away right now.''
Miguel also asked what city account would be charged for the lease and Greer replied the capital improvements fund, under Management Information Systems.
Miguel asked, "Are there any hard-dollar savings? Will you be able to reduce staff?''
Greer said, "No. I'll be able to reduce their overtime.''
Miguel said, "Can you quantify that?''
Greer said, "No. Not until it's up and gone and running. Part of that is, let's see, how would I put that? I'm not sure how you quantify having accurate, accessible records vs. not or having manual work in terms of not ... If you're asking me if I've done a time study to identify how much savings will occur, no I haven't done a time study to see how much savings will occur.''
Miguel later said, "I'm concerned that the staff has not visited a site or had hands on with the software. I'm concerned about the number of modules that are being purchased and the training that will be necessary for them, and I'm concerned about the time. When you say that staff is limited in the time that it can spend to learn the system, that concerns me a great deal.''
Greer said, "That's not what I said, though. I said their time, their time is limited. Their time is valuable. The more we can organize and coordinate it, the less travel that the company has to make. That was the statement that I was referring to. I would never suggest to you that the staff would spend less than the appropriate amount of time to learn and educate themselves with regard to this software. That's not anything that I would ever suggest to you.''
After a pause, Miguel continued, "And I guess my final concern is the $200,000 that we're talking about at this time. Thank you.''
Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding asked how much the city spends for maintenance of its current software.
Greer estimated $11,000 or $12,000, "plus whatever we pay to the consultant to come out and fix it.''
Breeding said, "So net, net, how much more are we paying?''
Greer said, "The cost for maintaining the software is no more than the cost that we're already spending to maintain the software that we have. It is a $200,000 expense, but it's not $200,000 of new money.''
Breeding said, "That's what my question is. What new money is it generally?''
Greer said, "It's the lease. The $28,000. And in fact I would even say it's probably less than that because of the amount that we've spent with the company that services the product. They're here a lot.''
After further discussion, LaBore read the ordinance authorizing the acquisition of the software and his motion for a second reading was seconded by Trueblood. Seven al-dermen voted in favor of the second reading before Miguel cast a dissenting vote, killing consideration of it that night.
Miguel read the second ordinance authorizing the lease agreement and his motion for a second reading was seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Joseph O'Keefe. Miguel cast the first vote on the motion, opposing it and killing consideration of it that night.
Fagan later said, "... I would entertain a motion from any member of the Board of Aldermen that because of the, I think it would be helpful to the city if we could get moving on the contract for the financial software as opposed to waiting two weeks. I know Alderman Miguel sent me an e-mail today that he wasn't going to be here for the next meeting, that maybe we can have a special meeting next Tuesday, Nov. 16, to bring that up and discuss the financial software ...''
Kelleher said, "... Mayor Fagan, since I enjoy wasting my time so much, I'd like to know why in the world we voted to delay this to the following meeting? Since some alderman shared a laundry list of issues, our software situation is pretty dire and I think this is a necessary expenditure and something that seven of us were in agreement about
and yet now we have to wait two weeks and if we're not all here next week, I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"But I'd like to know why we waited and what the solutions are going to be if we don't pass this because I don't see how we — and I may be wrong, chief, but I don't see how we can function without this. I mean we can limp along for another year or six months and you guys can pull your hair out and complain and we can have audits that are delivered six months after the date that they're required. What do we do?'' Kelleher asked.
Greer said, "Well, vote for the software. If you ask me, I mean that's what you do.''
Kelleher said, "I tried.''
Greer laughed, "Well, it's not dead. It just got laid over for two weeks ...''
Kelleher later said, "... Is it within my bounds to move to withdraw the vote?''
LaBore said, "You would have to talk to the gentleman who voted no.''
Kelleher said, "Well, let's adjourn and have a chat or let's take a short hiatus ... Alderman Miguel, I'd like you to reconsider — reconsider or perhaps we could re-cess and talk over a little water in the back? Or perhaps you could share your concerns directly with us and we could figure out how we can come to an agreement, eh?''
Miguel said, "I've said what I have to say this evening and I don't feel like that I need to say anything further.''
Fagan said, "Well, I guess I have a question, though, Alderman Miguel. With all due respect because you're not even going to be here at the next meeting, so I'm not quite sure, I think having a special meeting for you is probably the best option because if you have some questions, we can meet next Tuesday to vote on this because you sent me an e-mail saying you're not going to be here in two weeks and if you have some questions or you want something else or want to vote no against the package, then I guess we ought to move the meeting up to next Tuesday.
"I would have it tomorrow night, but un-fortunately the charter doesn't allow us to do that. It has to be one week elapsing before we can consider the second reading and to me if you have some concerns or you want to try to carry the day as to why we don't need this, I think your voice ought to be heard and we can vote on it. Otherwise, it seems like, it seems to me with all due respect, it's not benefiting the board or the city to not have a second reading tonight, but that's your prerogative,'' Fagan said.
During a public comment period Brophy said, "I'm mystified. I am mystified. The only explanation that I can think is that Mr. Miguel is personally going to talk to every member of this Board of Aldermen and give them an extremely detailed explanation as to what his position is on the software package before the next meeting. Because if he doesn't, he is simply obstructing the passage of the needed software.
"The fact of the matter is, is if he's not going to be here to vote, the least he can do is vote when he's here tonight. Thank you,'' Brophy concluded.