EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 2, 2013

Mayor tries to close IT deal with $925K projected savings

Hearing tomorrow, vote Monday

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — IT privatization was a top priority for Mayor Stephen Zanni during his first year in office, and he’ll look to close the deal starting tomorrow night at a public hearing in City Hall.

The 6:30 p.m. meeting will feature a presentation by representatives of Corporate IT Solutions. Zanni hopes to pay the private, Norwood-based firm $204,036 per year to manage the city’s Information Technology needs in place of the existing four-employee municipal IT department. The mayor is projecting savings of $925,224 over the next five years under his reorganization plan.

Tomorrow night’s public hearing was called by a three-member City Council subcommittee. Zanni said the subcommittee is expected to make a recommendation on IT privatization to the full council before a deciding vote on the issue is taken Monday night.

“That will be it,” said Zanni. “I’ve spent a long time on this and we’ll move on from there. I’m looking at what’s best for the city.”

Zanni said Corporate IT Solutions will also offer an assessment of the current IT department tomorrow night. A written assessment already included in the reorganization plan Zanni submitted to councilors identified “opportunities for significant improvement.”

“IT’s slow response to service requests due in part to a failure to take advantage of available, often free, technologies have led to significantly lower productivity in city departments and frustration among end users,” reads an executive summary of the assessment. “Critical issues often linger, due either to neglect or lack of technical knowledge.”

Corporate IT Solutions also wrote that recent IT upgrades were “poorly planned and implemented,” and that city department heads lack confidence in the IT department.

“A combination of poor communication along with a failure to make the effort to understand the needs of end users and city departments has resulted in a low level of confidence in the capabilities and commitment of the IT department,” reads the summary.

Zanni originally projected $485,000 in savings over 4 1/2 years under his IT plan, but revised it Dec. 17 to $925,224 over five years. The change drew skepticism from some city councilors, with Councilor Jamie Atkinson calling the projections “fuzzy math.”

Zanni said Monday his initial number was a “very conservative estimate.” He said further savings came into focus after Corporate IT Solutions performed a detailed analysis. The mayor is calling for IT privatization to take effect July 1.