EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 7, 2014

Information technology privatization unanimously OK'd

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The City Council last night unanimously voted to privatize the city’s information technology department after two years of debate and two failed proposals.

Corporate IT Solutions, a Norwood company, will start May 15 with a $254,705 contract that will last until June 30, 2015. The city will have the option to extend the contract another three years at $226,404 per year, according to the contract.

Four municipal IT positions, three of which are now filled, will be eliminated. One employee, John Molori, will be moved to the mayor’s office into an open position as executive secretary, recently vacated by Phil DeCologero after he launched a campaign for state representative.

Another employee, Peter Stone, is a certified master plumber and, if a position is available, could be moved to the Department of Public Works, said Mayor Stephen Zanni.

The third, director Kingsley Lough, is expected to retire.

“This is great for the city,” said Zanni, who twice tried unsuccessfully to privatize the department since taking office in 2012. “I’m thankful the council supported it unanimously.”

In January 2013, the council by a 6-3 vote rejected a proposal to hire Corporate IT Solutions for the job, citing shifting cost and savings estimates and the company’s initial assessment of the department.

Last night, two of those six “no” votes, councilors Jamie Atkinson and Lisa Yarid Ferry, backed the privatization plan. Both said they intended to pay close attention to make sure savings estimates materialize as promised.

“I have concerns regarding how this could go,” Atkinson said after the sparsely-attended public hearing and special meeting last night. “I’ll be looking closely to make sure it’s a cost savings.”

Atkinson, who was on the original committee that searched for a private IT company, said Corporate IT Solutions was “by far the best company we interviewed.”

Avoiding layoffs also was important to changing their votes, both said.

“Utilizing those two employees was key,” Ferry said.

Two councilors, Thomas Ciulla and Sean Fountain, were absent. Last year, Ciulla voted in favor while Fountain voted against.

Joshua Dinneen, vice president of sales and marketing for Corporate IT Solutions, gave a brief presentation for the councilors last night and answered questions about their service and the cost.

He said the company would have an engineer on site in Methuen during regular business hours, and their call center would be available to address problems if the on-site engineer is tied up with other work.

Seven-day, 24-hour service for public safety computer and network systems, including site visits, would not cost extra, Dinneen said. “We know public safety is a priority. There won’t be costs associated with that,” he said.

The proposal promises to save the city $536,617 over the course of five years. Year one would actually cost about $18,000 more than keeping the current IT department because the city would have to buy out vacation and sick leave for the employees who leave city employment. The first year of the contract also includes an extra six weeks, from May 15 to June 30.

Cost savings begin in the second year, according to the proposal, which was prepared by Corporate IT Solutions, and continue through 2019.

The company will maintain, monitor, update and secure the computer networks in City Hall, the Police Department, the Fire Department and in public works and water and sewer buildings.

A committee of councilors and School Committee members are reviewing ways to combine certain functions that overlap in both the city and schools, such as purchasing, IT and legal services. Zanni said an evaluation should be conducted on the School Department’s network before a discussion of privatizing that service could happen.

Follow Douglas Moser on Twitter @EagleEyeMoser. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.