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December 4, 2012

Push for privatized IT will continue in Methuen

METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni will get his public hearing on IT privatization after all.

A three-member City Council subcommittee formed Monday has been authorized to set up a public hearing regarding the mayor’s proposal to eliminate the municipal Information Technology department and replace it with services from a private firm.

Subcommittee member Sean Fountain said the hearing will likely take place this month. A deciding council vote on Zanni’s IT plan would then occur in January, he said.

“It will either go up or down once and for all after the public hearing,” said Fountain. “The end of the road is coming up fast.”

Monday’s decision to go forward with a public hearing capped off weeks of confusion.

It was initially believed a 7-2 council vote on Nov. 5 killed the mayor’s proposed “reorganization” of the four-employee IT department. But Zanni contended a public hearing should have been held before the vote. The mayor’s belief was affirmed 10 days later by City Solicitor Peter McQuillan in a confidential memo to City Council Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan.

In question is a section of the city charter titled “Reorganization Plans by Mayor.” McQuillan wrote to Kannan that disapproval of such reorganization plans “can only occur after a public hearing.”

Zanni believes the city will save $485,000 over the next 4 1/2 years by eliminating the IT department and contracting instead with the private firm Corporate IT Solutions of Norwood.

Zanni selected Corporate IT Solutions with the assistance of a three-member City Council subcommittee. His previous push to hire RetroFit Technologies, Inc. of Milford in February was rejected by councilors, who said the proposal should be put out to bid.

The public hearing will feature a presentation by representatives from Corporate IT Solutions. The new subcommittee formed Monday to schedule the public hearing also includes councilors Jeanne Pappalardo and Tom Ciulla.

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