Utility pact review underway


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, June 11, 2018

Elizabeth City City Council last month approved hiring Tyler Technologies to install a new billing system for city utility customers.

Now comes reviewing the fine print.

City Manager Rich Olson said he, City Attorney Bill Morgan and other city staff are reviewing an 86-page agreement defining how much Tyler will be paid, and for what services. Tyler and the city will spend the next months installing a new billing system — and trying to avoid a repeat of the failed, messy software conversion that caused utility customers hardship last year.

The agreement calls for Tyler, of Plano, Texas, to be paid $198,721 in one-time software and hardware implementation costs, plus $52,049 in annual expenses for continued support services and use of its software.

The total one-year cost of $250,770 differs from the price estimate of about $310,000 city staff provided last month. The $310,000 included $40,000 to hire another company to help with converting the city's utility data to Tyler's software, plus an estimated 200 hours of additional tech support with Tyler costing $20,000.

The agreement includes sub-agreements, including for maintenance and support and a “statement of work” outlining how the upgrade will unfold. 

According to the agreement, Tyler commits to regularly updating and patching its software, and making sure its current and future features work as promised.

The agreement appears to hope the Tyler update will be complete within a year; maintenance and support fees are waived through the earlier of the software's “go-live” date or one year from when the agreement is executed.

Tyler proposes a six-stage implementation process, with Elizabeth City expected to provide a project manager, steering committee and “executive sponsor” to work with Tyler staff throughout the process. The executive sponsor would oversee the project manager and have “final authority on all escalated project issues.”

The six-stage implementation includes various “control points,” or specific accomplishments, that city officials may contest haven't been completed properly, after which Tyler “shall address any deficiencies and redeliver” the control point.

Tyler commits to provide training resources, including its online “Tyler U” program, while asking Elizabeth City to provide a training room for both in-person and teleconferenced sessions. Tyler envisions training 15 “power users” who would then train other city staff in specific aspects of the software.

Tyler would charge the city $9,000 for data conversion — in addition, apparently, to the third party the city is looking to hire — and would ask the city preserve records of data prior to conversion. That will help the city and Tyler resolve any discrepancies in account information. The agreement also acknowledges Elizabeth City may have to “manually add or adjust data” as “mutually agreed” to by both the city and Tyler.

The agreement provides that, if the city disputes an invoice, it must provide written notice to Tyler within 30 days. If necessary, Tyler will develop an action plan to resolve the dispute.

“You may withhold the payment of the amount(s) actually in dispute, and only those amounts,” until the action plan is completed, the agreement states.

The agreement also states the city and Tyler will attempt to negotiate disputes, and do so confidentially, but doesn't restrict the city or Tyler from taking a dispute to court.