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Purchase of new computer system quashed

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Plans to proceed with the purchase of a new, state-of-the-art computer system for the Civic Centre were quashed by town council Monday night.

With the vote ending in a 3-3 tie (Coun. Struchan Gilson was absent from the meeting), a proposal to purchase hardware, software, and whatever else is needed to bring the municipal computer system up to par was defeated.

Couns. Dave Bourgeault, Roy Avis, and Deane Cunningham voted against the proposal because of the cost and the fact it had not been included in the 2001 budget.

“I put another resolution on the table after that one was defeated referring it to the 2002 budget,” noted Coun. Cunningham.

“The whole computer proposal hit the table right after the 2001 budget process and that bothered me,” he added. “My position is, I believe we should send it to the 2002 budget process.

“I don’t like to see us making these decisions without going through the budget process.”

Because the proposal fell between budgets, it had been suggested the money be withdrawn from the town’s reserve fund.

Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and Couns. Neil Kabel and Sharon Tibbs had voted in favour of the proposal.

Currently, the town’s computer system has been unable to handle billing and other functions, forcing Fort Frances to turn to outside companies for support in processing billing information.

“Because of the current system we have, we are losing control. We need control to be in the position to make our own deadlines,” noted treasurer Diane Pearson.

The proposed new system, including software, cable throughout the Civic Centre, training, the network system, personal computers, laptops, printers, conversion, and consultant fees, would have cost the town more than $362,000.

It was expected to be fully operational by Dec. 31, 2002.

Besides bringing the Civic Centre up to date, the system also would see all municipal offices--including Public Works and the Fort Frances Power Corp.--on one network.

“What we have now is a system that’s bumping along,” said Coun. Sharon Tibbs. “It’s fair to say there’s probably some places within the system where some people have what they need but are not able to communicate with the rest of the system.”

Following the tie vote, council unanimously supported Coun. Cunningham’s resolution to include the computer system in the 2002 budget process--a decision which may influence the cost of the project because requests for proposal will have expired and costs may change by then.

Pearson also outlined a five-year capital plan for the town’s computer needs from 2002-07. Council previously had recommended drawing up such a plan.

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