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The Mayor’s Office is taking issue with my characterization of the Wild ERP project on TV the other day. During the broadcast discussion, I suggested that the 40 or so city employees working on the project full time as it is being delayed were costing the city money “in addition” to the $36 million budgeted for the project.

Actually, a portion of that $36 million budget for the project is supposed to account for the 40 city and Data Processing Corp. employees working on it full time.

Rachel Laing, a spokewoman for the mayor, wrote me this (my emphasis added):

The time of the city staff dedicated to the project is, in fact, being charged to the $36 million project fund. They are not “in addition to” the $36 million cost of software and consultants. Their work is part of the project budget. Every hour worked counts against the project budget. It’s not a separate cost growing on top of an already-spent/earmarked $36 million. If the costs of the additional staff time grow such that it can’t be contained within the $36 million project budget, then we will have to go before council to ask for an increased project budget.

Key word there is “if.” I think we’re beyond if. The project’s finish date has been delayed now by at least eight months and possibly up to a year. And, the city has now been forced to hire SAP, with a no-bid contract to finish the work of the much cheaper firm, Axon.

So let’s be clear, the budget of the project — roughly equal to the entire cost of operating the city’s library system — does include costs for the city employees working full time on the effort. However, it was supposed to be done in October. Unless these people agree to work for free, making them work for several more months means they will have to be paid with money not budgeted.

City staff acknowledges this. In the FYI memo to the City Council announcing that they’re doing the no-bid contract, (remember, they just communicate with the council as a courtesy, everything is run through the supposedly independent Data Processing Corp.) city officials say they’re going to have to pay for the delay (my emphasis added).

On a total project basis, the primary pressure on the total project cost has been City employee staffing costs which are anticipated to be higher as a result of schedule changes.

So perhaps they should start talking about “when” the project costs exceed the budget rather than “if” they do.

And, finally, our news partner, NBC 7/39, got the mayor on the record directly:

SCOTT LEWIS

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