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Commission votes to leave software contract

By Anna Jauhola
The Kittson County commissioners voted on Tuesday, Oct. 1 to bow out of a failing project meant to create new tax and computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) software for the assessor’s office.
The county is a member of the Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative (MCCC), which originally contracted with the software company ACS in 2012 to create the new software to replace the currently used software, which is owned by the project company. However, in the last seven years, the company was bought out three times by Xerox, then Conduent Incorporated and now by Avenu Insights & Analytics. None of these companies made progress on the project since its early stages. However, Avenu has apparently made some progress recently and is trying to find a solution to have the software available by 2021.
“We had a meeting in September and they passed an amendment to modify the contract for the software agreement,” said Eric Christensen, county administrator. “A part of it allows us to bail out of it. They set an Oct. 16 deadline for everyone to decide what to do.”
Christensen said what the companies have completed on the project have not passed various county assessors’ inspections.
“No one was really satisfied with it,” he said. “We’d like to replace the product with something from other proven vendors.”
Regarding this contract, the county has already paid $29,600 for work done within the scope of the project. However, that was several years ago. The contractor never met certain guidelines so the county has been spared further costs on the project.
“They’ve already been working on this for seven years and they’ve not got it done?” asked Commission Corey Wisktrom. “That’s not a good track record if you ask me. I would jump ship from this place.”
The original price on this project for the county was $197,000. If the county were to continue with Avenu to develop the new software, the county would continue payments to the company in the final amount of $168,000.
He added that to invest in proven software from a company such as Vanguard Appraisals, Inc., would allow the county to likely update its software about a year from now.
To bring in a new tax and CAMA software on its own, the county will still have to spend approximately $200,000.
“It’s my recommendation and the assessor staff agrees that we vote to get out of the contract,” Christensen said.
The commission did not decide on what software to purchase as Christensen would need to get quotes.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved allocating $20,000 toward the Northwest Regional Development Commission Youth Intervention Program. This helps sustain the program for the 2019-2020 period. The county appropriated the same amount for the 2017-2018 funding period. The amount will be taken from the Social Services reserves fund.
• Approved a grade change in salary for Ryan Swenson, county survey crew chief. He will move from C-41-3 to a C-42-3, which bumps his pay from $29.26 per hour to $30.62. This increase was effective Oct. 6.
• Approved a resolution for tax-forfeited lands – four in Karlstad, one in Kennedy, and three in Lancaster.
• Approved renewal of the Medicare group plan for 2020 with a lower premium.
• Heard from County Engineer Kelly Bengtson that they finished FEMA applications for reimbursement for flood-related damage and cleanup.
• Heard from Bengtson the county shops underwent a mock OSHA inspection and were dinged for uncovered outlets where pressure washers are used. They have fixed this problem by installing covers on the electrical outlets.

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