City Borrows $2.4 Million to Dump Public Safety Software Vendor
SAN ANGELO — The San Angelo City Council bit a bullet on a large expense for the software system used to dispatch police calls and store records of those calls. The City decided to spend an additional $2.4 million to revert back to the previous Computer Aided Dispatch/Records Management System after previously authorizing $1.5 million in 2014 to replace that system. Barring any relief from the vendor of the new system now being replaced, the total cost of taxpayers for the CAD/RMS will be somewhere between $3 million and $4 million.
Hexagon is the company that originally provided the City’s CAD/RMS, and the system had been in position since 1999. According to former Police Chief Tim Vasquez, who spoke at today’s council meeting, the City was paying annual maintenance fees, but council denied multiple annual requests by the SAPD to upgrade the software version over the years. Those upgrades cost around $250,000 each in addition to the annual $145,000 maintenance contract, Vasquez said.
The non-upgraded system in place by 2014 was mired in so much antiquity that the SAPD needed to either spend $2.4 million to upgrade the old Hexagon system or look for lower cost options.
A request for proposals for a new CMS/RMS was publicized by the city in 2014 and a committee of CAD/RMS users, who worked in either the SAPD or at the city’s dispatch, reviewed and considered the responses. According to Jeff Fant, the now-retired former assistant chief who spearheaded the upgrade of the CMS/RMS, there were nine responses and five came to San Angelo to present live demonstrations. Two vendors emerged as leaders from the in-person presentations, according to Fant. Spillman Technologies eventually won the RFP process based on price and performance, he said.
The Spillman transition was not smooth. A retired dispatcher, David Behrand, addressed the council today. He said, during the training for the new Spillman system, he could tell it wasn’t going to work. He said Spillman required too many steps, or mouse clicks, to dispatch a police officer. It didn’t integrate with the dispatch system for the fire department, he added. Spillman added too many steps in its workflow, and that meant it wasn’t as timely as the legacy system Spillman Technologies' new system replaced.
Fire Chief Brian Dunn echoed Beardman’s concerns.
Following the decision, the City’s Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson released a statement:
“The system being replaced went live last June. Within a week, SAPD dispatchers and officers were experiencing significant problems. Those issues have lengthened call times, produced unreliable data and forced an intricate system of work-arounds that have doubled and tripled workloads.”
City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said he and staff worked very hard to make Spillman work at an acceptable level. He assigned City IT Manager Bucky Hasty to work with SAPD to resolve the problems. He said he was hopeful a resolution could be found. In the end, he said, the City found no fix. Valenzuela said Spillman “over promised and under-delivered.”
The overriding concern of the council was safety of the police officers. Because of those safety concerns, council voted unanimously 5-0 to approve issuing certificates of obligation for $2.4 million to revert back to Hexagon’s system.
According to Wilson:
“Despite the SAPD’s best efforts at cooperation, the new vendor has been unable to quickly and fully resolve the concerns. In short, what the SAPD believed it was buying was not what it got. The police and fire departments, the City manager, the City attorney, and the City Council unanimously agreed that replacing the dispatch and records system is a public safety necessity. The full transition to the newer system should be fully operational in early 2018.”
As for Spillman, City Attorney Theresa James said the City is considering steps to seek reimbursement of the $1.5 million from the fired vendor. Spillman appears on the council agenda in executive session frequently.
The new system will be operational in early 2018, Wilson stated.