CRESTVIEW — The City Council’s unanimous action on Monday moved Crestview closer to complying with a recommendation to integrate all city services into a comprehensive computer system.


CRESTVIEW — The City Council’s unanimous action on Monday moved Crestview closer to complying with a recommendation to integrate all city services into a comprehensive computer system.



This comes more than a year and a half after a Utilities Billing Department forensic audit.



Former City Clerk Janice Young’s investigation of billing discrepancies evolved into a forensic audit after her July 2011 retirement. Then-acting city clerk and Finance Director Patti Beebe ordered the audit, which O’Sullivan Creel consultants conducted with the council’s direction.



The audit found discrepancies between departments within the city clerk’s office and, during subsequent investigation, between other city departments.



Monday, the council, Beebe and Roy recommended amending the city’s contract with SunGard Public Sector, provider of the city’s records and billing computer system. This was in accord with O’Sullivan Creel’s recommendation to integrate all the city’s revenue stream systems into SunGard.



An advantage of upgrading the city’s SunGard system, which will incur a one-time set-up and $27,000 implementation cost, involves two off-site backup systems, in different locations, if there were loss of City Hall facilities, Roy said.



“This brings us into compliance with the continuity of operations (plan) and what the council has already asked in forensic audits, and it brings us into a situation where if the system blows up, we won’t lose anything,” she said.



The city’s operations continuity plan ensures residents can access most city services amid disasters and that city records can be preserved.



“If this building was hit by a tornado tomorrow, it would cost a lot more than $27,000 to replace all of our information,” Roy said.



In addition to updating and maintaining software for utilities billing, business tax receipts and asset management, the proposal would add the Code Enforcement and Permitting departments to the system. Planning and Zoning, Public Works and Parks and Recreation have not been integrated into SunGard.



Public Works Director Wayne Steele said a firewall prevented the city’s technology consultant from bringing his department — including Parks and Recreation — into SunGard. A firewall digitally shields a computer from malicious attacks; in this case, it prohibited Steele’s departments’ systems from communicating with SunGard.



City Planner Eric Davis said his department uses a system called Blueprints, which it chose after analyzing systems of other cities, including Fort Walton Beach’s planning and zoning department.



Davis said SunGard has not offered a demonstration of its capabilities for his staff and he would “hate to see us spend money on a new program that does not do as well as what we have now.”



Councilwoman Robyn Helt encouraged department heads to finish integrating all the city’s computer systems in SunGard as soon as possible, including resolving any impediments the information technology contractor has encountered.



“If by the next meeting they are not able to resolve the firewall issue, I want to see a recommendation by the clerk for a new company to resolve that issue,” Helt said.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.