MC to upgrade tech, add online services

MORGAN CITY — After much discussion about how services the city could offer could be made more efficient and modern, the city’s finance committee voted to approve the purchase of new software and hardware for all aspects of city administration and services from Michigan-based New World Systems.

“Our customers have been demanding this type of service,” chief administrative officer Lorrie Braus said.

City purchasing and information technology director Jason Dinger said the age of the server is a primary concern.

“It’s 15 years old, and, with that, we pay a maintenance fee every year with IBM, and every year they let us know what remaining parts they no longer cover because they’re not manufactured anymore,” Dinger said.

“We had a problem last year with a printer, and we had to get a part from Singapore. That’s not where it’s manufactured, but it’s just where there was a part.”

City finance director Deborah Garber said the aging printer and aging server have threatened to delay payment to city employees.

“The system depends on that one particular printer. We’ve been in a bind on a few occasions trying to get payroll out, because until you actually print, either the physical check or the record of deposit for the direct deposits, it does not let you continue and go ahead and deposit pay. That puts us in a serious bind, and we have to get it repaired immediately.”

District 4 Councilman Luke Manfre asked what municipalities were using the software from New World Systems.

Garber said St. Mary and Plaquemines parishes both use and recommend the company’s software and services.

Dinger said citizens of Morgan City would “be able to make payments on-line, be able to view bills on-line” for utilities.

“You sold me right there,” Manfre quickly responded. “I get too many calls on that of why we are in the dark.”

Dinger explained further that “a customer could be on a cruise on vacation and realize he didn’t pay his utility bill, log in remotely, and pay his bill.”

Garber said, “A lot of these guys work offshore or overseas for a month or two at a time, they may forget, and they have to call somebody in town to come bring a check.”

She also explained how the current system has to shut down — usually around midday — every time the server is backed up, which hinders the taking of bill payments.

“While all that’s going on, everybody else is kicked out of the system,” Garber said, adding that some customers come to pay their bill without having their account number with them.

“So, we have to turn them away, sometimes on their lunch hour when they’ve made time to come do this, and say, ‘we can’t take your money because I can’t look up your account,’” she said.

“For the first time, the employees are excited about change,” Garber said.

She said that the city received four quotes for new software.

“We had a list of all the items that we would need the software to do for us, which was extensive,” she said.

“New World is the only one that came in 100 percent. Their cost was higher, but the others can’t supply us with everything we need. They are giving us a year’s worth of project management experience and 100 days of implementation and training and physically being here,” Garber said.

The total cost of the software is $364,800, and the committee also voted to spend $50,000 — mostly on servers — for new hardware to go along with it.

“I didn’t realize we’d be digging that deep,” Manfre said of the cost, “but let’s hope this gets us into the 21st century.”

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