Public works proposal to improve customer service, hire more staff

By Amanda Liberatore

At Tuesday night’s study session of the Champaign City Council, a proposal was introduced by members of the Public Works Department to purchase a Work and Asset Management System to improve customer service and increase efficiency.

“While the Public Works Department does dedicate a lot of effort to customer service, there is definitely room for improvement,” said Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt. “While this is a large ticket item, it would definitely benefit public service in our community.”

The system is expected to cost roughly $173,000, of which $25,000 is covered by the department. These costs go towards hiring technical staff, which would need two Geographical Information System technicians at a minimum. GIS is a computerized system which stores the location of geographical assets in the community.

“(Work and Asset Management System) will decrease the time spent looking for maps at the Public Works Department, will customize database and maintenance schedules and will create a safer, more efficient work environment,” said Management Analyst Patti Anderson. “Better yet, it will greatly improve customer service.”

However, various council members displayed concern over the support of Azteca Systems Inc., the software company that is supporting the system. They are worried because of the state of the nation’s economy.

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    “What do we do if this company goes up the creek because of the economy, like we have seen so many of our corporations do lately?” said At-Large Councilman Tom Bruno. “If they end up dropping dead when we are implementing this system, will they ultimately be bonded to us and reimburse us?”

    Schmidt said that he and the Public Works Department would look further into this and would get back to the Council.

    “We understand the state of the economic climate right now and we hope that they can do what they can to protect against that,” said Schmidt.

    However, Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart decided to vote against the proposal, saying that he was uncomfortable with financing a $173,000 project. Still, the proposal ended up passing with a vote of 6-1.