Millions of dollars in cost overruns left Orange County officials fuming Tuesday, but that was about all they could do.
At issue were a couple of pricey projects seeking additional funding from the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
The first involves a massive overhaul of the county's computerized property tax management system, which hasn't been updated since Ronald Reagan was president.
A few years ago, the county hired Tata Consulting Services, an Indian company, to design a new system based on a 6,000-page memo developed by the county. Estimated cost: $7.6 million.
Apparently, the 6,000-page memo wasn't detailed enough.
"There were a lot of loose ends in that document," county auditor-controller David Sundstrom told a frustrated Supervisor John Moorlach at Tuesday's board meeting. And revisions to the state tax code caused additional snafus, delaying the completion date from July 2011 to June 2012--and jacking up the price tag.
Earlier this year, Tata asked for an additional $4 million to finish the project, plus $800,000 for travel expenses and support. County officials negotiated the price increase down to $2.7 million, bringing the final tab to $10.3 million (which also includes a six-month warranty), an amount the supervisors unanimously, albeit somewhat reluctantly, approved Tuesday morning.
But wait, there's more. In addition to buying the new computer system, the county also has to train employees to use it. On Tuesday, supervisors OK'd another $2 million to GCAP Services Inc. to teach county workers to use the new property tax system, as well as new software for the county's payroll, purchasing and human resources departments.
Last year, the county employees union blasted all the computer system upgrades, saying they were ridiculously overpriced, full of bugs and inefficient. (See the video that accompanies this story.)
The $3.7-Million Landfill Office
Another item that riled supervisors was a request for an extra $400,000 to manage construction of an eco-friendly office building at the Prima Deshecha landfill, which serves South Orange County.
In 2009, the county budgeted $3.7 million to build a 10,000-square-foot "green" office building at the landfill. The project was supposed to be done last August but has turned into "a disaster," according to county officials, who said they expect to file a lawsuit against the construction company, Horizon Construction Co. International Inc.
However, much of Tuesday's ire was aimed at Bryan A. Stirrat & Associates, which was hired to oversee the project and provide archeological services. Normally, a project manager's fee equals 15 percent of the total construction cost, officials said, which would have been $555,000 in this case.
But, so far, the county has paid Stirrat $1.6 million. And, on Tuesday, the firm asked for an additional $400,000 to oversee final touches on the project, primarily landscaping at this stage, officials said.
Giving Stirrat $400,000 "to watch a guy finish landscaping ... is ridiculous," Supervisor Shawn Nelson snarled. It's like "paying nuclear engineers to keep track of someone changing a 9-volt battery."
In the end, supervisors agreed to pay Stirrat $138,000 for work already done and ask the county's public works department how much it would charge to take over the rest of the project.
But Supervisor Janet Nguyen said she wasn't sure in-house oversight would be much cheaper. Nguyen said she's seen how much the public works department charges its fellow county agencies and "they're expensive."