by Ivan Foley
A redesign of the City of Platte City’s web site is on the way.
Questions remain, however, over which company will be doing the work and how much the city will choose to invest in the project. The city administrator and staff are recommending to the aldermen the higher of two bidding finalists.
Should the city spend $17,000 more over three years to go with a bidder the city administrator sees as being “slightly technically more qualified” than a lower bidder?
The issue was discussed at a meeting of the city’s economic development subcommittee on Tuesday evening at City Hall. After a split decision among two aldermen present for the committee meeting, the matter will go to the full board of aldermen next week for a discussion.
D.J. Gehrt, city administrator, said he and other high level staff members preferred to hire CivicPlus, a firm from Manhattan, Ks.
A company known as Municipal CMS of Smithville was the other finalist in the bidding process.
Gehrt explained that the total three year cost ($20,000 for development plus first year support, plus $3,997 annual for years two and three) from CivicPlus would be $28,368.
Meanwhile, the total three year cost ($8,700 for development and first year support plus $1,200 annually for years two and three) from Municipal CMS would be $11,100.
That’s a difference of $17,268.
Gehrt said in addition to his belief that CivicPlus is “slightly technically more qualified,” he favored the higher bid also because CivicPlus is a larger company than Municipal CMS.
“The committee was concerned that the small size staff of Municipal CMS made it difficult for them to maintain a high level of service over time. CivicPlus is a company with several hundred employees. Municipal CMS has fewer than 10 staff members. Staff expressed strong concern that the loss of one or two people from such a small company may make it difficult to maintain service quality,” Gehrt said.
But he added:
“Both companies have excellent reputations and both have numerous satisfied customers.”
Toni Oesterle, a representative of Municipal CMS of Smithville, was in the audience. She spoke briefly to say she “can’t imagine a city the size of Platte City” spending $28,000 on its web site.
Oesterle said Municipal CMS has been in business 15 years and has customers in several states across the country. She said she did not understand city staff’s rationale to recommend a higher bidder “just because that company is larger,” adding in her opinion the significant cost difference alone should be enough to sway the bid in her company’s direction.
Vickie Atkins, alderman serving on the economic development subcommittee, was opposed to accepting the higher bid.
“What I’m hearing you say is there are slightly small differences. I’m not ready to spend $17,000 more for small differences,” Atkins said to Gehrt.
After Atkins made her remark, Debbie Kirkpatrick, alderman who serves as chair of the subcommittee, said the committee is split, apparently indicating Kirkpatrick is in favor of the higher bid.
Kirkpatrick said she favored letting the entire board of aldermen discuss the matter.
Mayor Frank Offutt, sitting in the audience, explained that the subcommittee would need to forward the discussion to the full board of aldermen with the explanation that the subcommittee was split on the matter.
The current city website was developed in 2007-2008 at an initial cost of approximately $8,400. The City spent an additional $12,000 to $14,000 between 2008 and 2011 for site revisions and improved functionality.
City officials say the site, however, remains difficult for residents to access; is difficult to navigate, is not intuitive, is difficult for staff to operate and maintain and does not support many of the city’s e-government initiatives such as on-line account management.
The current site “does not support electronic payment very well,” Gehrt added.