Remember when we had to argue about whether the massive software overhaul at City Hall — Wild ERP — would go overbudget or not?

No need to argue anymore.

The Mayor’s Office has made it official. The project, whose go-live date has been delayed by more than a year, will need $10.5 million more at a time when the city can hardly afford a couple of hundred thousand dollars to pick up trash along our scenic beaches.

That’s the bad news. The good news? The Mayor’s Office made representatives from SAP available for a briefing. SAP is the company now in charge of implementing its own software and it’s pretty clear the company does not want to let this thing spiral out of control. It wants municipalities all around the country to implement its software. If this one fails, well, let’s just say the company’s reputation is on the line.

And a project that was once treated like a side hassle for city management is now front and center. SAP appears to have shown Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone and his deputies exactly the type of structure they need to make sure decisions on this project are made and made well.

All of this is good. Except, of course, the $10.5 million extra it’s going to cost us.

The mayor and his staff have decided that we should borrow most of that money.

In order to pay off those loans over seven years, it will cost us about $630,000 a year from the city’s general fund and $530,000 a year from other funds.

The mayor would like us to feel reasonably confident that is as painful as it will get.

I asked the assembled officials and businessmen why residents should feel better about the project now. Goldstone, the man in charge of all the city’s operations, said the city had put in place the right leadership, the right focus, the right expectations and the right team in place to get it done.

And most importantly, he said, none of the project’s managers are treating it like a side project. There are people in charge who have nothing more important to do than make sure it gets done.

This is a big deal. Even when Greg Levin, the city’s comptroller, was in charge of the project, he was also tasked with pushing through the back log of the city’s comprehensive annual financial report. This has been the case with all the managers of the effort.

When you do that, when you put someone in charge of a project but then you give them arguably more important assignments, you can’t be upset if the make it less of a priority — if important decisions are delayed or avoided and things fall behind.

This is what they appear to have identified. I asked if it was also beneficial now to have people with technical backgrounds in charge. Debra Bond and Nader Tirandazi are overseeing Wild ERP’s implementation and both have experience working on technical issues.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an IT person or not working on it,” Goldstone said. “It’s having the people with the right skill set and being able to have them devoted to the project.”

The officials said they expect the city’s finances to all be working with the ERP system by July and most other systems will fall into place shortly after that.

Will this thing work out under the current leadership without going over budget or past deadlines again? I’m not sure. But you can tell the city is now serious about it. You can tell SAP is serious about it. It’s a top priority they don’t appear willing to let fail.

That’s certainly a step in the right direction.

SCOTT LEWIS

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