elkintribune.com

Board approves software, begins reorganization

By Wendy Byerly Wood wbyerly-wood@civitasmedia.com

August 15, 2014

PILOT MOUNTAIN — Town staff will be trained on a new software system in the coming months after the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners approved purchase of the system two weeks after tabling the issue to gather more information.


During a special meeting of the board Tuesday, Town Manager Amanda Reid presented the commissioners with price comparisons of three similar software programs — QS1, Southern and Harris/ICS.


Harris is the software program the town has been using since 2005, and it only provides water and sewer system software. Reid provided a report that should the town has spent $70,553.94 since May of 2005 with Harris. The company bills the town annually for $5,726.25 in support fees, but then any additional services whether it be training, running reports or changing any utility data.


In five years, the town would spend $28,631.25 with Harris in just support costs.


Mayor Earl Sheppard said that the town has had a call in to Harris for more than a week and no one has responded.


QS1 would charge the town just $1,000 in upfront costs, but then the annual support fee will be $12,237, giving a five-year annual cost of $61,185, according to Reid’s comparisons.


Southern Software, the company recommended by Reid, has an upfront cost of $26,784, and then an annual fee of $3,508. Sheppard and Reid explained to the commissioners that Southern will do far more than what the other programs will.


“This software is for every function in this town, doing books, payroll, water and sewer, it is a total package,” Sheppard said.


At the board’s July 28 meeting, a request was made that the town check with Dobson since it had been with another software company, went to QS1 and then moved to Southern, about the reasoning behind the switches.


“Josh (Smith, Dobson town manager) was with City Pack,” reported Commissioner Dwight Atkins. “He said the software was just not good, so they went with QS1, and he said he wouldn’t wish QS1 on anyone else.”


Dobson moved to Southern Software, which is based in Southern Pines, and Atkins said, “He said it is user-friendly, easy and they didn’t have to buy the software. He was very high on Southern and using it.”


The five-year annual cost for Southern will be $17,540. And Reid told commissioners that “our savings will be substantially higher in personnel, paper, time” with the town recouping its costs in two to three years for those savings, with recoup of the hard cost of the software in four years.


Commissioner Cordie Armstrong moved that the town purchase Southern Software and authorize Reid to execute the purchase. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Linda Needham, and passed unanimously.


Beginning of reorganization

The first move in an effort to reorganize the town staff and possibly services occurred Tuesday when the commissioners unanimously voted to make Holly Utt’s new job description town clerk/finance director. Previously she had been in the role of town clerk, but already was handling most of the finance issues for the town.


The new move will allow Utt to take classes to learn the financial ropes of town government, and she will have John Holcomb, finance director of the town of Elkin, as an advisor.


“He refinanced debt for Elkin last year and saved them $500,000,” reported Sheppard during discussion prior to the board’s vote. “He has looked at our debt, and he and Amanda are starting to refinance. He found that one of our loans taken out in 1989 has 5-percent interest and we don’t pay on the principal until the 21st year, and no one ever told us that.”


To this point, Holcomb has not charged Pilot Mountain for his assistance, and he’s already spent eight hours working with town officials. Sheppard said he will charge by the hour, and Reid added that the details of his guidance will be worked out moving forward.


Needham made the motion to approve the job description change, and Atkins seconded.


In addition, Reid asked the board for input on their priorities of town services now being offered to residents by public works and the police department to see where possible restructuring can occur.


“We know it is going to be a tough year financially with the bridge out,” said Sheppard. “One thing Amanda said was she needs to know what level of service you want from town employees.


“I’ve told her from the start that small towns do with lower level service due to cost,” he said. “We’ve already done away with the fire department, and that was a great move. Her question is ‘where do I cut?’”


Reid provided an input sheet to the commissioners so she can get feedback on how the various services provided by each of those departments rank in priority, either high, moderate or low, and its rating from one to 10 within that priority level.


She broke down the public works duties within sanitation, cemetery, streets, facility maintenance and line maintenance into activities like brush removal, bulk item pickup and dead animal removal, to street repairs, storm drain clean outs, grave marking and leak checks in the water and sewer system.


For the police department, she broke down the duties of preventative measures, traffic, investigations, special tasks/units, community involvement, code enforcement and miscellaneous into activities like security checks, foot patrol, traffic control for events and schools, to drug enforcement, checking on citizens’ welfare and parking enforcement.


“I need to make sure the level of service the community and board expect are being met,” Reid said. “We are a full-service town.


“Typically when you cut a service or add a fee, you are going to get push back from the community. I want to define what high priorities are and make sure we are meeting what is needed.”


Commissioner Gary Bell said he would like feedback from the public, but a couple of commissioners hesitated to open the feedback one the duties to the entire town.


“We’re not going to be able to please everyone,” said Armstrong.


Reid said the purpose is for her to know where she needs to allocate personnel and resources going forward.


The board decided to take the sheets home to work on and bring them back to the 7 p.m. Aug. 25 monthly meeting of the board, which they recessed to.


Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.