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A new computer software system that promises to bring both the Cheshire Fire and Police departments into the 21st century when it comes to records entry may be up and running within the next year, officials informed the Cheshire Town Council last week.
The Council approved a supplemental appropriation to cover costs associated with the installation of a new Computer Aided Dispatch and Records Management System (CAD/RMS) on Tuesday, June 14 by an 8-1 margin. The system, when operational, will allow both departments to significantly upgrade its records filing and data entry, which are obsolete at this point, officials indicated.
“The current system has outlived its usefulness,” explained Police Chief Neil Dryfe. “I'm worried that, at some point, it is going to fail to the point where we can't recover (the information). I am increasingly concerned about its lifespan.”
“We'll go from zero to having a system,” explained Fire Chief Jack Casner, about the project.
When installed, the new system will allow police officers to input data in the field, eliminating the need for them to return to the department to manually log the information into computers there. It will allow firefighters the opportunity to do the same, as well as provide them with information on properties and residents as they travel to potentially dangerous situations.
In 2008, $270,000 was appropriated to be used for a system upgrade. However, that money will not be enough to cover the scope of the entire project. An additional $100,000 will be used from the departments' gift accounts, which is donated each year by Elim Park, but that still left costs of $96,000 that needed to be covered by the Town.
It is expected that, with the decision by the Council to release the additional funds, a contract will be signed with New World Systems to handle installation. Dryfe stated that both departments had done their “due diligence” in researching which companies could handle the job and provide adequate services, and that New World offered the best option.
“We were looking to get the best value,” said Dryfe, “and I believe we did that.”
The contract was the main item discussed by the Town Council. Councilor Andy Falvey indicated that he has routinely dealt with computer software vendors and that there is never any “guarantee” that the “support” from the company will last.
“You're only going to get that support for X amount of time,” said Falvey. “Whatever we buy now will be obsolete. Software changes so rapidly, that's what happens.”
However, Falvey indicated that any assurances from New World that they will provide support “for any length of time is the best we can ask for.”
However, fellow Councilor Steve Carroll, who voted against the allocation, indicated that, while he appreciated the project was “worthwhile,” he was uncomfortable with the size of the project and the information he had available to him.
Of specific concern to Carroll was making sure that the software company would put in writing its “deliverables,” or guarantees on certain services and performance.
Councilor Patti Flynn-Harris agreed, and while she ultimately voted for the project, she urged everyone involved to hammer out the exact scope of the work and hold the company to both a schedule and its promised “deliverables.”
Town Manager Michael Milone stated that he understood and even shared the concerns of the Council. Milone cited a software conversion project that was done four years ago, describing it as “horrible,” and mentioned that he will provide the Council with progress reports routinely.
“If you see some things that aren't as evident to us, you can alert us,” he said.