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Niles faces ‘failure’ of software

Published: Mon, January 20, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

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.


1Brudog99(16 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Wow, another Canadian software company just like where Obama got his software for the Not So Affordable Health Care web site. I guess there are no software producers in the US.

If this software was never doing what it was supposed to do, why was Niles paying for it for so long? And why isn't Niles suing someone over this?

And Mr. Merlo's comment about there being no interest. Niles is paying $220,000 for some software. Do you think a little finance charge might be built into that price?

PLUS another $70,000 to $100,000 to get what is really needed. What a bargain.

And a "failure" that Niles kept paying for for three years. Oh well, the money did not come out of the government leader's pockets.

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2southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

With all the software companies here in the U.S., why use a Canadian firm? To save a few dollars initially, now it costs more in the long run.

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3iBuck(231 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

tsk tsk, southsidedave.

You wouldn't want the poor darlings to have to stoop to employing some of the millions of bright US citizen science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) pros who are not currently employed in the field they loved so much, in which they invested so much of their intelligence and effort and money and time and creativity. How terrible would that be? No, we must waste that talent!

Besides, bodyshopping is still the great fad of the B-school set... regardless of the costs and other bad results, just as IBM was their darling a few decades back, and then MSFT. Sure there was better computer hardware. Sure there were better operating systems. Sure there are lots of off-the-shelf billing apps. But they didn't have the name among the unthinking B-school set. There are priorities!

So it has been written.

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4DontBanThisDrone(1046 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Musta been the lowest bidder.


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5higolfer(3 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Anyone who has been in IT would know that these package prices are totally out of whack. I have purchased an entire manufacturing and accounting package for $130,000. I have written software for 2 cities in PA. Nothing near what Niles is paying, but it isn't their money that they are spending.

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