Conroe, December 17 – County Auditor Phyllis Martin’s double-speak convinced the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to spend $25,000 on an office-space buildout on the third floor of the Sadler Administration Building the need for which is entirely unclear at the present time. While the purpose of the office space would be to provide work space for the County’s new $16 to $25 million Enterprise Resource Planning system Martin and out-of-control County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport want the County to purchase, even Martin admitted that the space needs for implementation of the new computer system are unclear until the County actually purchases the system.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to spend tax dollars, the Commissioners Court voted 4 to 1 to spend the money. Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack voted against the proposal.
Martin began her presentation to the Commissioners Court by telling the “Freespending Five” that “we” have been working with a “preferred vendor” to purchase an Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) system. Apparently, Martin and County Judge Craig Doyal have already selected the ERP vendor without Commissioners Court approval.
Martin said, “We need space for our implementation team to work.” Martin explained that there is space on the third floor of the Sadler Administration Building that’s empty. “We could put in walls to create two conference rooms and offices, carpeting, and the estimate includes desks that Building Maintenance will help build.” Martin proposed to strip funds out of the Building Maintenance Department budget.
Perhaps not wanting to maintain a reputation as the “Freespending Five,” Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack interjected, “Shouldn’t we wait and see what action the court takes on the ERP system before we start building office space?” Noack explained that there is a large conference room that the ERP implementation team could use on the first flood of the Sadler Building adjacent to the North Star operations headquarters.
Martin admitted that she didn’t consider using space that is already built out on the first floor which such use would save substantial tax dollars. Martin further admitted that the office space on which she hoped to spend $25,000 would only be temporary (providing other opportunities to spend money for more construction of the same space in the future!).
Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador always jumps at any opportunity to spend money, so he supported the motion to spend the $25,000 on the unnecessary temporary office space and Doyal, and Commissioners Charlie Riley and Jim Clark went along with the spending proposal.
What is the Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) system?
Enterprise Resource Planning (“ERP”) system. At an estimated cost of $16 to 25 million, the Enterprise Resources Planning system is little more than a spending boondoggle. Several people in the County government have completely lost their minds and probably need some of that mental health treatment that our County Jail is going to start to provide. Not surprisingly, the main advocates for the ERP at that price tag are Davenport and Martin. Charles Cobb, an employee in Noack’s office who has recently joined the ERP committee, has expressed serious reservations about the direction Davenport and Martin are proceeding.
At the May 9 Commissioners Court meeting, County Auditor Phyllis Martin and a consultant who has received over $149,000 for a completely worthless collection of euphemisms which Martin and the consultant called a “report,” provided an “update” about the Enterprise Resource Planning system they and Doyal propose for the Montgomery County government.
ERPs are often utilized in business enterprises – ones seeking “profits” unlike the government which just spends – to bring together different financial functions, such as payroll, contracting, purchasing, and insurance, so that the various users of such information are able to communicate with each other online easily. The Golden Hammer spoke with Mark Ward, a renowned business and technical consultant from the Tampa, Florida, area, who reviewed the ERP presentation of the County as well as its operations and budget and provided this newspaper with two major conclusions. First, Ward noted that a governmental entity should only implement an ERP “if it can reduce employee staffing needs by 10% or more.” Second, Ward estimated that the high end of an ERP’s annual cost for use by an approximately 2300 employee County government should be in the range of $90,000 per year for licensing fees with no up-front costs other than ensuring network compatibility (such as implementing a Windows or other appropriate operating system).
Unfortunately, with the out of touch bureaucrats studying the County’s proposed ERP and with Plante Moran, a consulting firm greatly profiting from making the process of purchasing an ERP as complex as possible to gin more consulting fees, the cost estimates which Martin provided the Commissioners Court are through the stratosphere.
Martin and Plante Moran estimated that the up-front costs of purchasing an ERP for the County would be between $6 and 10 million with licensing fees costing the County between $10 and 15 million over the next 20 years!
Despite all of that money Doyal, Davenport, Riley, and Martin want the County to shell out, Martin admitted that there would be no savings whatsoever in the number of employee salaries necessary in the County government. Therefore, Ward’s first goal for an ERP will fail. Second, the cost of this ridiculous ERP system will be approximately 8 times the annual cost it should be as well as an infinite times the startup cost (which should be 0). Finally, as crazy as this proposal seems, it’s even worse. Martin told the Commissioners Court that it will take 2 years to implement the system!
The Commissioners Court should fire Plante Moran immediately and ask for a return of the $149,000 paid to them for a pointless PowerPoint presentation that didn’t even explain what an ERP is, but which did include a nice 2 minute advertisement at the beginning for Plante Moran’s consulting services.
Montgomery County taxpayers are in for several major punches to their financial guts.