Saturday, July 14, 2012

Was Dunwoody Sold a Bill of Goods?

It hasn't been a very good time for our young city.  These wild ethics charges are an embarrassment for Dunwoody (read AJC), and now my friend at Dunwoody Talk is bringing to light some hard-to-defend spending by city hall (Rick, I couldn't agree more.  The signs are not only ugly, but the spending is unnecessary).
If that isn't enough, Dunwoody has paid an awful lot of money for a 911 service that still isn't doing what it is supposed to do.  And it may end up costing homeowners money.  How do I know this?
My friend Greg Crnkovich wrote the following comment on John Heneghan's blog (and by the way, how anyone can file an ethics complaint against a man with an impeccable reputation like John's is laughable):

     "Why did the Council forego the monthly updates requested of (Police) Chief Grogan and (City Manager) Warren Hutmacher as to the status of the (911) Chattcomm switch-over? I am surprised to learn that more than 9 months after the changeover, the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) function has yet to be functional. This was supposed to be complete by March, 2012.
     "Since I am in your district, I would like to request that you put an agenda item before the Council to publicly disclose the costs of the transfer and any additional costs incurred in this switch over, to date.
      "I would also ask that you consider appointing or hiring a program manager unrelated to the City to get this issue resolved, promptly.
      "It appears to this citizen that there is not proper oversight of the process by the people who are currently in charge."
      Greg Crnkovich

John immediately responded to Greg:

     "Greg, I understand and share your concerns on the switchover delay.  I will happily ask to have this item on the next agenda."

Well after reading the above, I decided to forward that exchange to former Councilman Danny Ross, who was the only member of council to vote against the switch of 911 services from DeKalb County to Chatcomm (I was also against it for no other reason than cost.  Read former Councilman Robert Wittenstein's cost figures from November, 2010). 
Danny's response to me was immediate and in no uncertain terms (I have omitted one name from his email response).

     "Bob - Greg is not correct on when the CAD to CAD was suppose to be completed. The date was October 3, 2011. Attached you will find a compilation of e-mails relating to this subject dating back to May 2011. You will note until late July 2011 (one year ago) Hutmacher assured the council that the project was on schedule. It was not until late July, early August that he finally revealed to the council that the October 3rd date was not going to happen. By then it was too late to change the switch over for police 911. If I were on the council today, I would be calling for his resignation, as I indicated in the October council meeting that "heads should roll" if this is not completed by the then promised date of January 3, 2012.
The date continues to slide each month. During the council meeting on July 9th, I watched the portion related to this matter. Hutmacher continues to give the same excuses for not having this done. Without question, the IT department should be overseeing this, not (omitted). (omitted) is a very nice person, but totally incompetent in overseeing this. All (omitted) does is serve as a conduit of the information given by ChatComm, DeKalb and the other parties (OSSI and InterAct). Our IT supplier has a highly qualified person on their staff that was a policeman and who is schooled in E-911. That was a major reason that as a member of the selection team, I pushed for switching IT supplier during our renewal process this past year.
     "To my knowledge, ChatComm (and Hutmacher) have not supplied council with a report on the Fire and EMS dispatch times since February. At that time, it was taking over 3.5 minutes to dispatch calls related to Fire and EMS (1.5 minutes for ChatComm and 2 minutes for DeKalb call takers). I am surprised that ISO (Insurance Services Organization), the organization that establishes the grading for response (which should be 1 minute or less) has not cited Dunwoody on this and possibly lowered our rating from a 3 to a 4 or worse. If this were to happen, the insurance rates on the average homeowner in Dunwoody would increase over $200 per year (see attached ISO Report). The first responder to a fire or EMS event should be 5 minutes. As you can see, with the dispatch time we have, this only leaves 1.5 minutes for the respondent to arrive at the scene once the dispatch is finally completed. Thank God we have not had any (more) fatalities thus far!
      "Thanks for sending Greg's questions. I have copied John Heneghan and Greg on my response to you. John and Bob, feel free to post the attachment (and this e-mail response) on your blog if you wish. Greg, thanks for bringing this important issue to John's attention."
     Danny Ross

I have no idea who is responsible for the delay in the switch, but when it affects my pocketbook - I'm all ears.  I agree with Danny, this should have happened months ago, and if it's ChatComm's fault that it hasn't, the city of Dunwoody should be getting a refund (I'm still waiting for a traffic officer to handle the ridiculous jam on Womack Rd. every school morning, but am told we don't have the budget.  The money spent on ChatComm would have more than paid for that officer)!
In the end, I don't know if Chatcomm's services are better than DeKalb County's.  But the county was willing to bend over backwards to keep Dunwoody as a client.  And Dunwoody said no.  As a result, our money, and even our lives, are at stake!


Bob Lundsten said...

Great post Bob
Great question Greg

Kerry de Vallette said...

If I'm not mistaken there was a conversation about the status at the May 14th meeting. I believe it came up when the agenda item "E911 Fund and CAD to CAD interface" fees were discussed. I remember texting Councilman Nall during the discussion that we had all heard these assurances before about the interface being ready "soon". I mentioned that I had zero confidence that it was going to get done anytime soon as there was no performance clause that City negotiated with the developer to insure the interface would be completed by "X" date. So, the City is at the mercy of the vendor.

As one experienced with software development projects I can tell you that this interface is a "one-off" project. As such, the developer has no real idea how much time it will really take to write, test, and implement the code. Then there is the challenge of a capacity test. This is when the code gets "pounded" by dozens of simultaneous test calls to insure it continues to function properly.

Then there is the question of on-going software maintenance. I believe staff had mentioned that the "cost" of the interface, at that point, had cost the City about $75,000. I asked Terry if he knew how much the annual software maintenance fee will be that the vendor negotiated. Since he was not in office at that time he stated that he did not know. In the healthcare industry annual software maintenance runs typically around 18% of the software license fee.

Other issues with this "solo" code: What if the vendor that develops it does not offer a software maintenance contract? Does the city get a copy of the source code in the event something happens to the vendor. There are a lot of unanswered questions that we all need answers to.

Just sayin'.... (shameless plug)

Anonymous said...

There is an aspect of the ChattComm decision that has nothing to do with Public Safety; Dunwoody's inclusion cements our affiliation with N. Fulton municipalities.

I did not support that rationale, BTW, yet its' political importance cannot be understated.

That said, I am glad my neighbors are asking the tough questions on this topic.

Kerry's comments about the interface bring back thoughts of 'kludgey fixes,' as a former veteran of the software design and testing process.

I hope they get it right, test it rigorously, and have a maintenance plan.

Thankfully, knowledgeable people ARE watching this detailed process.

Brent M said...

Excellent post Bob. I am even more concerned after hearing councilman Ross' feedback.

Dunwoody Radio said...

The real issue with respect to the CAD-to-CAD software is that it is being developed jointly by two competing companies. They have no motivation, other than our dollars, to make this a success, as it will not further enhance the business prospects of either vendor.

In addition, the vendor currently providing the E-911 system in DeKalb knows that they may be on a very short timeline as the county has already announced a search for a new system, and perhaps a new vendor. So where is their incentive?

Our esteemed City Manager chose to appoint a person to supervise this vital program who, while being a very capable and well meaning person, had no background in this area. She was left to blow in the wind and be the go to person when things became sticky.

We seem to be able to hire consultants for all the major issues like signage and logo development at very substantial dollars. But, we are, for some reason, reluctant to spend penny one on hiring a competent and experienced consultant, from the E-911 industry, to oversee this potentially life-saving task.

It is a shame.