Allow me to wish you a happy Lincoln’s Birthday!
Last January 24th, in my “State of the County” address, I had the following slide (under the subtopic of “Torpedoes”):
A year later, the prognosis is unchanged and the Board of Supervisors has concurred with management’s advice to discontinue utilizing the services of the vendor. The software conversion started under my watch as Treasurer-Tax Collector. There are no “off-the-shelf” packages in the marketplace for larger California counties. Having seen several other counties struggle in their efforts to improve their property tax management systems (PTMS), like Santa Clara, San Bernardino, and San Diego, Orange County decided to follow a more deliberative approach. The county utilized consultants to map out exactly what the PTMS was to do and then went out to bid for a firm that could write the code. It was that simple, yet it took the County some five years to get to the point of starting this last phase of the project. Some five years or so into writing the code, it has been disheartening that the vendor over-promised and under-delivered. All the more so when the project is so close to being concluded. But, there comes a point when you can no longer nurse a vendor along. The OC Register covers the matter below.
County’s new property tax system delayed again
Contract with software vendor expires. Litigation is possible.
For years, officials with the County of Orange have been working on a new property-tax management system to replace a mainframe-based relic that has been churning out tax bills since the 1980s.
And for years, the county’s Board of Supervisors has heard regular updates from staff on why the new system – a collaboration between the treasurer tax-collector, the auditor-controller, and the clerk of the board – has been plagued by delays and cost overruns.
But last week, when the county’s information technology chief, Mahesh Patel, gave the supervisors an update on current projects, he made no mention of the property-tax management system, or PTMS.
A contract with an outside firm writing software code for PTMS has expired with the code untested and millions of dollars unpaid. Anticipating possible litigation, county counsel advised Patel not to mention PTMS in his quarterly update to the supervisors.
In his prior update, in October, Patel had said that negotiations were under way to extend the contract with software vendor Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS. But the contract expired Jan. 9 without an agreement on extending it, and county officials are now considering their options, Patel said in an interview.
Patel said the software code that TCS developed for PTMS is "substantially done," but largely untested. The county owns TCS’ work product, Patel said.
The PTMS project, which was already 18 months behind schedule and $4 million over budget, is on hold, Patel said.
TCS, part of India’s Tata group, "just didn’t step up to it here," said County Supervisor John Moorlach. "They come in here and they smile and they send senior management, and they said ‘We’re going to get it done’ … and then they just don’t get it done. … How long do you put up with that?"
TCS, meanwhile, has been paid just $4.9 million of the $10.3 million contemplated in its contract, which began in 2008.
A TCS spokesman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. A woman who answered the phone at TCS’s New York office said the spokesman is reachable only by email.
Moorlach described PTMS as being "in transition." The question now, he said, is "do we get someone else to finish the code or do we look at some of the neighboring counties to see what they’ve got?"
While a number of nearby counties are working on similar systems, it’s "been a long and difficult process for all the counties," Moorlach said.
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FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Brianna Bailey of the Daily Pilot provided an update on “The Banning Ranch Purchase – Newport officials are in talks to buy the land and will either preserve it or allow parts of it to be commercially developed.” Five years later and the process continues on the future status of this open space. Here is the piece in full:
Newport Beach City Council members are expected to establish a committee tonight to oversee the appraisal process for Banning Ranch. If the city purchases the land, it would be the largest piece of undeveloped property in the city’s coffer, but such a sale could be years away.
Environmentalists want to preserve it. Developers want to build more than 1,300 units of housing and a hotel on the land.
Naming the price of the more than 400-acre area is the first step for the city to purchase the land, which is owned today by the gas and oil company Aera Energy.
“By end of year we’re going to know how much it’s going to cost and what kind of funding availability there is,” Mayor Ed Selich said.
The city must eventually determine whether to buy the land and preserve it, or allow parts of it to be developed for housing, shopping and hotels.
About 53 acres of Banning Ranch lies within the city limits. Although the rest of the land is in the county’s jurisdiction, Newport Beach maintains a sphere of influence over the area, which stretches along the Santa Ana River and West Coast Highway.
Money to purchase the land and preserve it would likely come from several different sources, including private foundations and bonds, Selich said.
At the same time, the private management team that oversees Banning Ranch, Newport Banning Ranch LLC, is already hammering out plans to develop housing, a hotel and shopping in the area. Tentative plans would still preserve much of the area’s open space. The management group hopes to unveil plans to the city late this spring.
“They spend a lot of time and it’s been very considerate of all the parties,” said John Moorlach, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “It’s team ball and I’m very pleased with their approach.”
It will be difficult for Newport Beach to raise the millions the land is likely worth to purchase it and preserve it before development plans take shape, but the city will win in either scenario, because some of the land will be preserved either way, Selich said.
“I think it would be nice if we could preserve it all as open space. We’re committed to make our best effort to go out and find the money,” Selich said.
“Under either scenario we’re preserving most of it as open space.”
A representative from Newport Banning Ranch LLC said the group is committed to working together with the city.
“Our intent at this point is to work with the city on a collaborative scenario that is good for everyone,” said George Basye, who represents the owners of the land.
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