EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 4, 2013

Private firm: Methuen's IT department 'deeply flawed'

Hearing held in anticipation of Monday vote

METHUEN — Representatives of a private Information Technology firm detailed the “deeply flawed” state of the city’s IT department last night during a two-hour public hearing at City Hall.

And while a number of city councilors questioned the mayor’s claim that the city will save $925,000 over five years by privatizing municipal IT services, the majority of residents who spoke up said they supported the idea.

“My concern is the bottom line,” said Ralph Prolman of Pinehurst Avenue. “Personally, if it were me I’d privatize anything I could in the town to save on insurance and pension costs. ... Anything you can do to save a buck is going to be appreciated.”

Mayor Stephen Zanni hopes to pay Corporate IT Solutions of Norwood $204,036 per year to manage the city’s IT needs in place of the existing four-employee municipal IT department. Three employees would be laid off under his IT reorganization plan.

Last night’s public hearing was called by a three-member City Council subcommittee led by Councilor Jeanne Pappalardo. The full council is expected to take a deciding vote on IT privatization Monday night.

“It’s going to be a hard vote to take because we’re eliminating three employees,” said Pappalardo. “It’s not a fun thing to do. But if we’re going to save this kind of money and their performance hasn’t been up to par, my role as a city councilor is to save taxpayers money.”

Pappalardo compared IT privatization to the decades-old decision in Methuen to outsource trash removal service.

“We have to look down the road here,” said Pappalardo. “I think that we’re on the right track.”

In addition to saving money, Zanni said hiring Corporate IT Solutions will allow city workers to use their computers much more efficiently.

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