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High software bid bugs some commissioners

April 27, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Three Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday expressed frustration about not being told a $2.8 million software package they approved last week was almost $1 million more than another proposal.

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At an April 20 meeting, Commissioner John L. Schnebly voted against a $2.8 million contract for a package to bring the county's payroll and other financial systems into Year 2000 compliance. He said at the time that he wanted the cost estimates of the six other proposals.

On Tuesday, Commissioners William J. Wivell and Paul L. Swartz said they regret not voting with Schnebly.

When the commissioners are faced with a project of this magnitude, they should be given more information and have time to digest it before taking a vote, Swartz said.

Purchasing Agent Karen Luther has since told Wivell and Schnebly about a similar software package proposal by SAP/IMG of Washington, D.C. That package costs about $968,000 less than the $2.8 million contract the commissioners approved 4-1 with Careera Consulting Group of Sacramento and PeopleSoft USA of Atlanta.

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Seven proposals were reviewed by a committee, which narrowed the field to three. One of the three was dismissed. The committee and a consultant recommended going with Carrera and PeopleSoft.

"I suspected there was a sizable difference there," Schnebly said Tuesday.

When there is that much cost difference, the commissioners need to be informed, he said.

Swartz agreed. "We should have known the other bids. We should have known the other information," he said.

At next Tuesday's County Commissioners meeting, Luther is scheduled to explain the differences between the proposals and the reasons for the committee's recommendation.

Luther and County Administrator Rodney Shoop said it is unfair to compare the proposals because each one is slightly different.

"To compare the bids as they come in would not be a fair comparison. It would be comparing apples to oranges," Shoop said.

Swartz, Wivell and Schnebly said they probably will continue to support the decision to go with PeopleSoft, but they want to hear the reasoning behind the committee's recommendation.

"We need to be presented with all the facts. I am sure there are valid reasons why this was chosen but I want to be shown what they were," Wivell said.

The contract is for software, hardware and training. The software will automate some procedures, such as routine purchasing, that are now done by hand.

The county is to start using the software in June. The software may be shared with the Washington County Board of Education and Hagerstown Community College.

The county, like municipalities and businesses around the globe, is trying to make sure its computer systems will not fall victim to the anticipated Y2K bug.

The Y2K bug is a threat because many computers programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year may not work properly beginning Jan. 1, 2000, when machines might assume it is 1900.

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