If you’re a Brookfield resident who expected to receive your water bill in the mail in early July, you may have noticed that it hasn’t shown up yet. And you won’t be receiving that bill until at least sometime in August because of a computer failure at village hall.
On July 1, one of the three hard drives in the village’s 1980s-era IBM mainframe computer failed completely, said Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, crippling the village’s ability to do water billing.
“All the data is secure; it’s just a matter of converting the data into the new system,” said Sbiral, who also serves as the village’s IT manager.
Since the beginning of 2012, Sbiral has been working with a consulting company called New World Systems to install a new $465,000 computer software package that will replace and finally usher out the era of the mainframe in Brookfield.
That changeover began in February, starting with the village’s financial management software and the software related to vehicle stickers. New World Systems kicked off training for the water billing software changeover in May, said Sbiral, with the goal of switching over to the new system in October or November.
With the failure of the old computer system, however, that’s now been moved up.
“We’re asking New World Systems to take an eight-month process and make it eight weeks,” said Sbiral. “The goal is by August to go live on utility billing. Route C would’ve been billed [the week of July 9]. They’ll be first [with the new system], hopefully in August.”
Sbiral said the bill that will be received by those customers will still be for water used through June 30 and that customers will still have the same amount of time they normally have to pay the bill.
In addition, Sbiral said the village would try to space out the next bill, so that water customers don’t get socked with one bill on top of another.
“I don’t know right now when the bills will go out, but we’re going to try to make it reasonable,” said Sbiral. “We’re not going to slam one bill right after another.”
While there was a severe storm on July 1, Sbiral said he doesn’t believe the computer failure was a result of the storm. Village hall didn’t lose power that day and no power surge was recorded.
Within a week, village officials determined that the hard drive had failed and learned that to have IBM come out and recover the information would have cost $7,000-$10,000.
Sbiral found a similar mainframe computer from the late 1980s online and purchased it for $1,200, which allowed the village to get its computer system back up and running. However, some files, including one relating to water billing were lost. Sbiral and others have been recreating those files by combing through paper records.
“Actually we see light at the end of the tunnel,” Sbiral said.
After the water billing software is in place, the village will begin working to implement the software related to the building department. That process will start in October and finish in early 2013, said Sbiral.
The Recreation Department, which also has its records stored on the IBM mainframe, will need its own new software system to make the conversion. The village board will discuss that software purchase in 2013, said Sbiral.