Archive for Saturday, May 2, 1998

COUNTY OFFICIAL BIDS TO BYPASS THE RULES ON SOFTWARE PURCHASE

May 2, 1998

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The county hopes to buy software that will scan in records in the register of deeds office in less time than it would take staffers to input them on computer.

Register of Deeds Sue Neustifter wants Douglas County to bypass its usual purchasing policies and not bid out records management software for her office, accepting a bid of sorts from her instead.

In a memo to County Administrator Craig Weinaug, Neustifter says the Lockwood Co. presented the best system to Douglas County.

``I feel the Lockwood Company has been in business longer than any other company that I have worked with and feel they will be there when I need them,'' Neustifter says in the memo.

She then asks the commission to waive the county's normal bidding process for goods and services and agree to pay $69,300 for the software, installation, initial training and support without considering proposals from other companies.

County commissioners will discuss the request at their Monday meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the county courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts.

Commissioner Mark Buhler said Friday afternoon that he had not reviewed Neustifter's request but could see how computer compatibility issues might make it difficult to bid the project. He said not bidding sometimes makes better business sense for the county.

Neustifter said she tested four systems and found the one offered by Lockwood, an Atchison company, to be the best. Neustifter said she couldn't remember the names of the other companies whose software she tested.

``We started testing them out the last of last year and the beginning of this year,'' she said.

The records management software would allow her office to scan in records and save time, she says. Instead of entering records onto a computer, staffers would scan them.

The county has kept records in the register of deeds office -- mostly regarding real estate -- on computer since 1990. If the county buys Lockwood's software, the staff would start fresh.

``At this point we're going to start and go forward,'' Neustifter said. ``Someday I'd like to go back and do (all of the office's records on the new system), but that's going to be a big project to do. They have a program that will convert the information we have on computer now to the new system.''

Records in the office date to 1852.

Neustifter hopes to get the new software this year. Lockwood would train everyone in the deeds office. Options Neustifter outlined in her memo include eight hours of additional on-site training at a cost of $62.50 per hour for $500 total; $600 to add a user license; and 200 hours of ``block time to address operational issues during the initial year of operation'' at a cost of $75 per hour for a total of $15,000.

Weinaug said not bidding the project makes sense in this case. The county has been working on a technology master plan the past few months and looking at ``how we want to network as a whole county.''

The county's regular bidding policy ``does not work well for this kind of purchase,'' Weinaug said. The county could write specifications for the project, but it would be focused anyway on one company because of the compatibility issue, he said.

``It's her recommendation, but it's a good recommendation,'' Weinaug said, adding that the county has bypassed bidding on other occasions.

``You can't just say you want to,'' he explained. ``You have to justify it to the commissioners, and they have to agree.''

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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