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January 18. 2013 12:28AM

City costs just keep rising for software

MANCHESTER - Late last year, the aldermen were so frustrated with delays with the new city-wide software system that they voted to spend $15,000 for a consultant to come up with a plan to finally bring the project to fruition.

After the consultant presented the plan Tuesday, the one thing that appears clear is that the city is going to have spend more money.

The contract, signed three years ago with Innoprise Software, was originally for $1.5 million, according to city officials.

But Doug Rowe, a senior consultant with BerryDunn, the firm hired by the city to review the project, said the cost at this point is "much more" than $1.5 million. "The current implementation process is likely more onerous than current city staff have the capabilities for," he told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Rowe said only one component has been completed in Innoprise's multi-faceted system, which is supposed to handle everything from payroll to a resident-complaint program.

Rowe did not tell the aldermen whether they should continue with the contract with Innoprise. Rather, he presented a 13-page PowerPoint report that, in essence, told them that they needed to adopt a project management plan. This is what the firm produced for the city, Rowe said, and he alluded several times to the hefty binder at his side and on file at the City Clerk's Office.

"We strongly believe, to be successful, regardless of whether you stay with Innoprise or go with another Enterprise Resource Planning company, you use a dedicated project management approach," he said. BerryDunn provides such services, but Rowe said he was not making a bid for the job.

If the city were to continue with Innoprise, Rowe explained, the company would be willing to work under the management plan, but Innoprise would seek more money to bring on another employee - at a rate of $165 an hour.

Hiring an outside project manager alone would cost around $500,000 for the duration for the project, according to an estimate from Mayor Ted Gatsas.

Several aldermen expressed dissatisfaction with BerryDunn's report.

"You're the expert here. We hired you and we need you to help us move forward," Alderman Joyce Craig said.

Gatsas called the project "very difficult" to comprehend. "It's like infrastructure, but you can't touch it. I don't believe we have the expertise ourselves to carry it forward," he said.

The aldermen on Tuesday voted to have the steering committee that has overseen the project meet separately with officials from Innoprise, as well as Sunguard HTE, the company that built the computer system now in use, to discuss their willingness and the costs to implement the consultant's plan. The motion authorized another $2,500 to be spent on BerryDunn for its participation in the meetings.

Two aldermen voted against the motion: Joe Kelly Levasseur and Patrick Arnold, who has long been critical of the deal.

"I don't know how the board can make decisions about this," Patrick said, referring to the lack of cost estimates in Rowe's presentation. "Do we continue to invest in this or do we pull the plug?"

The city has been paying Innoprise about $220,000 a year, both to service its existing computer system and to implement the new one, according to City Information Systems Director Jennie Angell.

When the aldermen first approved the Innoprise contract, it was touted as a way to overhaul and streamline the computer system used throughout city departments.

"We are very hopeful that it will help streamline and ultimately reduce costs and improve constituent services," Angell told the alderman in 2011.



tsiefer@unionleader.com



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