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October 23, 2012

‘Want versus need’: $500K to update city’s computers?

CUMBERLAND — Nobody at Tuesday night’s council meeting disputed the suggestion that the city needs a new computer system.

At 15 years old, the current system — though essentially functional — is like a dinosaur and the ballpark $500,000 price tag is what had some council members gulping.

“Let’s put this in the category of want versus need,” Councilwoman Mary Beth Pirolozzi said after hearing a presentation titled, “Potential Enterprise System Replacement,” that detailed reasons why an upgrade is necessary.

“If you want to get the best performance and get the best utilization out of the resources that we have, the staff that we have, and make them fully functional, this is the way you go about doing it,” said Comptroller Joe Urban, who with Management Information Services Director Johnna Byers has been analyzing upgrade possibilities for the past year.

On Tuesday, they presented a Windows-based system that could be provided through New World Systems, the city’s current provider.

“Because it’s not just a financial system, it’s an enterprise system,” Urban said. “You’re talking about utility billing, cashiering, community development, citizen inquiry, service delivery enhancement systems ... tying things to GIS.”

Byers said a new system could allow city government to go paperless, as well as allow citizens better access to information such as utility bills, permit requests and filed complaints.

The city’s financial consultant, Davenport & Co., of Towson, recommended last year that the city invest in a modern financial software system as part of efforts to improve its bond rating.

“When we first started looking at this we thought it was maybe 80 percent want, 20 percent need,” Byers said. “But once we went through the business process analysis, probably at this point it’s 80 percent need, 20 percent want. We didn’t really know how deficient we were or what our needs were.”

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