By Jordan Cohen
After spending more than $225,000 in the last three years for software that administrators called “a failure,” the city may have to spend more than $300,000 for replacement software for the utility billing and auditor offices.
City council already has authorized a contract with Continental Utility Solutions Inc. of Jonesboro, Ark., to install and maintain utility-billing software at a cost of $220,000. The purchase price — $170,000 for the software and a projected labor cost up to $52,000 — will be paid in $12,500 monthly fees to CUSI, according to Councilman Giovanne Merlo, D-2nd Ward, chairman of the technology committee.
“CUSI is funding this at a zero interest rate so we won’t be paying any interest,” Merlo said.
However, the city’s new purchase does not solve all its technological shortcomings. Council has authorized the service director to advertise for proposals for the auditor’s software.
“We’re estimating the cost of the auditing software at between $70,000 and $100,000,” said Mayor Ralph Infante. “It’s hard at this point to know until we see what responses we get.”
The Vindicator reported last November that utility billing, accounts payable and auditing software from Cogsdale Systems, Canada, installed in 2011 to integrate all three systems, never performed as the company claimed it would. Merlo said the new software will resolve the issue.
“The auditor’s software will be able to communicate with the utility-billing software, which wasn’t the case previously,” the councilman said. “With it, the auditor can balance his books more effectively.”
Auditor Charles Nader described Cogsdale’s technology as extremely labor intensive.
“This was not software written for a municipality,” Nader said at the time. “It was too hit and miss.” Administrators also complained that Cogsdale failed to provide adequate technical support.
Niles had been paying Cogsdale $7,500 monthly leasing fees toward eventual purchase. The city last fall finally stopped making monthly payments to the Canadian company.
This time, the city is purchasing instead of leasing. Merlo said that after the contract is worked out, CUSI will begin its installation and technical support.
“We hope to have everything up and running in June,” the councilman said.
CUSI describes itself on its website as a provider of utility-billing applications and financial-management software since 1984.