Despite pleas from Burbank Water and Power officials, the City
Council on Tuesday denied a request for $1 million in additional
funding to teach employees how to implement a new customer
information and billing system.
Instead, the council told BWP General Manager Ron Davis to
renegotiate a $3.5-million contract with Indus Utility Systems Inc.,
the firm hired to upgrade the utility’s aging billing system.
The firm is working with BWP employees to implement a new system,
but Davis told the council that staffers “lack expertise” in
information technology and project management and require additional
support services not included in the city’s existing contract.
To date, nearly half of the $4,678,300 budgeted for the project
has been spent, and to put the project on hold would be less
cost-effective, officials said.
“We need to get talented people on staff and sufficient
information technology people in now,” Joanne Fletcher, BWP customer
services manager, told the council.
Indus proposed charging $2 million for setting up and managing a
data center, systems administration, conversion and operations.
BWP staff, however, recommended paying $1 million to have Indus
serve in specific areas for a limited time until the utility’s
information technology staff grew more capable.
The council wasn’t buying it.
“I’m supportive of your methodology in this very challenging
project,” Councilman Dave Golonski said. “But I find these rates just
too high. It’s not even close to acceptable.”
BWP’s existing customer information system, which serves 50,000
customers a month, is 30 years old and needs to be updated as soon as
possible, Fletcher said.
“Please understand this is not a silver bullet,” Davis told the
council. “We may be asking for a million now, and if you turn it
down, we may come back for [$2 million].”