After running computer systems on 30-year-old mainframes, using software developed by a high-school intern five years ago, the Village of Brookfield is allocating almost $465,000 to completely overhaul its computer systems.
Board members will vote at the Nov. 28 meeting to contract with Michigan-based New World Systems for a brand new .NET-based computer system that will streamline office tasks, improve transparency in budget spending and allow residents to pay utilities and tickets online and track comments and complaints.
“We’ve known this is coming and financially we’ve carefully planned for it for six years and outlined what needs to be done,” said Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who also heads the village IT department.
Sbiral said the current village computers run on “System 36,” an old IBM Unix-based architecture. While the system is “very stable,” Sbiral has warned the village that if any catastrophe occurred to the system, it would be costly to replace and redesign a 30-year-old network.
“It would be like recreating a Model T Ford; you’d have to find all the parts,” he explained. A recent battery fire in the computer room of village hall is an example of something that could cause disruption, he told the board at the Nov. 14 meeting.
The Municipal Software Review Committee requested proposals in February from five municipal software vendors: CDC, Civic Systems, New World Systems, Springbrook and Tyler Technologies/Incode.
Representatives from the Finance, Building and Planning, Utilities, and IT departments and the Village Manager’s Office, were all consulted about what was needed in the new software.
“Our staff is smaller than it’s ever been in the history of the village, and they’re being asked to do more tasks with fewer people and less resources. Our RFQ was put together by people who will actually use the software,” Sbiral said.
The current software code was written around 2003 by Bob Pusateri, a Riverside-Brookfield High School intern and computer wiz who wrote software for the Riverside Building Dept. that was later shared with the Village of Brookfield and several other towns. “Bob’s code has worked well for us,” says Sbiral. Since there is no development of the system, though, the village would have to contract monthly to upgrade and fix bugs.
The new software will be a “fresh .NET implementation,” according to a memo given the board. The new software will streamline accounts payable, accounts receivable and utility billing and communicate between departments in real time.
“This means we will no longer have to wait several weeks after month-end to get a snapshot of the current finances,” says the memo. The software will update radio-read meter utility information in real-time. Residents will be able to pay utilities and other village bills online beginning in about six months. They’ll also be able to access accounts online. The new interdepartmental software will also give the village an overview of cross-department fines or fees owed by the residents, so an applicant for a building permit or liquor license, for example, will be asked to pay overdue parking fines.
The New World software will also mesh building and planning dept. projects to streamline comprehensive planning, permits, inspection and village property maintenance. Public Works will also be integrated to track workflow and allow employees to communicate with the system in the field with their phones. The new system lets residents post online comments or complaints and requests for service for streetlights, potholes and other common issues.
“That will cut down the number of calls to village hall, freeing employees to concentrate on other tasks,” said Sbiral.
A final component of the system will be a budget analysis that will assist planning by village government. This will allow the budget to be easily readable online by any citizen, including multiple years of history and future proposed budgets, improving transparency, says the memo.
Recreation/parks dept. services will not be rolled into the new software because the committee determined their software is acceptable for now.
The implementation of the new system will be billed as a lease over five years at $93,244 per year. Included in that figure is support and staff training for five years from New World. That breaks down to $363,000 for new software and support, financed at 3.5 percent interest.
The village will also buy new hardware for approximately $45,000, installing a VMWare system of virtual servers, which will back up existing servers and support the police dept. camera system. Hardware will be purchased through the village’s existing hardware vendor. With debt service payments, the total will be close to $465,000. New World Systems will give Brookfield a $52,400 discount for permission to use the village as a “demonstration site” in the future.
Brookfield trustees will vote to adopt the new computer recommendations at their board meeting on Monday, Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in village hall.