METHUEN — After stumbling out of the gate in February, Mayor Stephen Zanni will get a second crack at privatizing the city’s Information Technology department starting tomorrow night.
The mayor will present the City Council with a “reorganization plan” for the four-employee municipal IT department that promises savings totalling $485,000 over the next 4 1/2 years.
Zanni said that savings estimate is conservative. With the help of a council subcommittee, the mayor has also selected a new private company to take control of the city’s IT responsibilities — Corporate IT Solutions of Norwood.
Zanni said eliminating the current municipal IT department in favor of contracting with Corporate IT Solutions will improve the efficiency of city employees and save taxpayers between $92,000 and $130,000 annually over the next four years.
“I’m talking about performance and cost savings,” said Zanni. “I hope that resonates with the rest of the council.”
The mayor’s proposal is expected to face several hurdles.
A majority of councilors have yet to get behind Zanni’s privatization effort. Several councilors interviewed Friday also raised questions about the process in which Corporate IT Solutions was picked.
That process began less than two months after Zanni took office in January.
IT privatization or outsourcing emerged as an early priority for the mayor. But his push to hire RetroFit Technologies, Inc., of Milford, in February was rejected by councilors, who believed the proposal should be put out to bid.
In response, Zanni quickly formed an IT subcommittee made up of Council Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan and councilors Jamie Atkinson and Ron Marsan.
Requests for private IT services were then sent out to 25 firms on the state’s approved bid list. The city received six responses, which the subcommittee later narrowed down to three finalists: RetroFit, Corporate IT Solutions, and HiQ of Boston.
A round of site visits and interviews followed. The subcommittee was initially expected to present several finalists to the City Council, but HiQ was eventually dropped, and more recently Corporate IT Solutions was picked over Retrofit.
All three members of the subcommittee said Friday they believe Corporate IT Solutions is the best of the three finalists.
But Kannan, Atkinson and Marsan all said it was the mayor’s decision to narrow the field to one company before meeting with the full council. Zanni said he chose not to include RetroFit in his presentation tomorrow night because the company was already rejected.
“The process did change,” said Zanni. “I wasn’t about to throw RetroFit into the mix again. I saw where that went last time.”
Without clear council support for IT privatization, Kannan and Atkinson both questioned Zanni’s decision to select a new private vendor before presenting his reorganization plan.
“The reorganization should have come right after” RetroFit was rejected in February, said Kannan.
“It seems we’re putting the cart before the horse,” Atkinson said. “That’s part of the process I would have liked to see changed.”
The municipal IT department budget is $631,000. The School Department’s budget for IT services, software and hardware is over $1 million.
Zanni’s IT reorganization plan calls for an initial six-month contract with Corporate IT Solutions. The contract runs from Jan. 2 to the end June 2013 and will cost $102,000. After that, the city will have a three-year option at a cost of $204,000 per year.
Three of four municipal IT employees will be laid off under the proposal.
A vote against Zanni’s plan tomorrow night could spell the end of his privatization push.
A vote in favor will require a public hearing on the matter within 30 days. Following that a deciding council vote would likely take place either Nov. 19 or Dec. 3.
Marsan is the only clear supporter of privatization on the three-member IT subcommittee.
“I think we need to make changes,” said Marsan. “In this instance, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Kannan said she still believes IT equipment should be upgraded before sweeping management changes are made.
“It’s not about equipment,” countered Zanni. “It’s all about the management itself.”
Atkinson said he remains on the fence.
“I’m still gathering information before I make a decision,” said Atkinson. “I think it will be a very close vote.”