Berkeley to get computer help

March 19, 2001

Berkeley to get computer help

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - More employee computer training and more planning for future computer needs will be implemented following a meeting last week between the Berkeley County Commission and a computer company that contracts with the county.

The commissioners have been complaining for months that the system provided in 1998 by Software Systems of Morgantown, W.Va., was continually not working, that they got little troubleshooting help and that they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade and fix it.

Figures provided by the county clerk's office show the county was billed $50,000 since November to upgrade or fix the system, including $13,000 that remains unpaid until officials are satisfied their complaints are being taken seriously.

Software Systems president Mike Manley appeared before the commission Thursday. Commissioner Robert Burkhart reiterated the county's concerns.

"Two years ago, we put this system in and, ever since, we've been dollared to death," he said. "You tell us what we need and all of a sudden it's not enough. The job hasn't been done."


Manley said three components are involved in a computer system - the hardware on which the system is based, the software programs that run the specific jobs and the way the system is run by those who work with it.

He said the hardware and software are not the problem.

"We don't have a problem with software, but we do have a problem with the way it's been set up" to be run by the employees, Manley said.

That can be corrected with more training, he said.

"I think everybody needs to be more computer literate," he said.

The county will have people in each department trained to troubleshoot. They can then train others. Manley said better training and having a checklist to review when things don't work right would be much better than hiring full-time employees to oversee the system.

Burkhart also asked the company to write a two-year plan for anticipated computer needs. Part of his frustration comes from not knowing when changes might be needed or what they will cost, he said.

Manley said he could put together a list, but could not guarantee it would be complete as technology changes.

"I can do everything you ask, but I can't tell you you won't have surprises," he said.

The county also had highly publicized problems with election equipment from another company last November which added to the image of people who don't know what they are doing, said Commissioner John Wright.

Burkhart said he was satisfied "for right now."

County Clerk John Small, another outspoken critic of the company, had little to say after the meeting.

"We'll just have to see what happens," he said.

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