Special Reports

Council to pay for rest of computer work

Tacoma City Council members indicated Tuesday they'll approve another $651,600 to wrap up installation of the city's new $50 million computer system - but they want to see efficiencies as quickly as possible.

And two council members - Mike Lonergan and Rick Talbert - left no doubt they expect the public's investment to pay off in better services for residents at lower employee labor costs.

"The outcomes I hope to see are greater efficiencies. ... We can begin to deliver the services our citizens have asked for in more efficient ways - with fewer employees," Talbert told his colleagues.

Lonergan agreed.

"Where we believe we're looking at a $30 million gap in the next biennium, the council is really, really hesitant to spend another $651,000 from anywhere," he said.

"But we have embarked in a new era," Lonergan added. "We have growing pains, but we are absolutely looking for, hoping for some added efficiencies."

Both men congratulated Business Systems Improvement Project director Karen Larkin and her crew for overhauling the way Tacoma does its electronic business, replacing 102 outdated computer systems with one integrated system in about 18 months.

"When you think about the complexity, there have been very few glitches," Talbert said.

The project staff spent every penny of their $45 million budget and then exhausted a $5 million contingency fund for upgrades and expansions, Larkin said.

The final $651,600 will pay last-minute employee and overtime costs and close out the project, she told the council.

The council heard the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday night to do just that, by adding the money to the city's 2003-2004 budget.

It's scheduled for a vote next week.