By Trevor Busch
Voicing concerns over a $130,000 price tag, town council has referred a decision on a new recreation management software program to the Taber Recreation Board for its input.
“There’s an upside and a downside to this proposal,” said CAO Greg Birch, speaking at council’s Feb. 8 regular meeting. “The upside is this software is better than we anticipated. It’s especially robust, and stable. The downside is price, which is a lot different than we anticipated.”
The town’s current CLASS recreation management software has reached the end of its life cycle, and as such, municipalities have been looking at other products. The Town of Taber collaborated with the City of Lethbridge and University of Lethbridge on a Request for Proposals (RFP), which had both parties submit their software needs to the City of Lethbridge’s Procurement Department for the RFP process. The RFP closed on Nov. 20, 2015.
“We do not feel that there’s another product that can meet the needs for the price that we had, based on the elaborate and detailed process that we went through,” said recreation director Aline Holmen. “There’s nothing about this we could see even to criticize.”
Three vendors were evaluated and selected for further discussions to proceed, which included Active Network, Intelligenz, and Perfect Mind.
Following these discussions and further presentations, it was clear to town administration that Perfect Mind would not be able to provide the level of service with regard to facility bookings and management that was currently provided by CLASS, while Active Network’s product offering was considered more advanced than the town’s requirements in relation to cost factors.
After consideration, all three partners selected Intelligenz, taking into account cost, functionality, efficiencies, and capability for future growth.
“I love the functionality of this program,” said Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux. “Especially when you’re registering multiple kids from one family, it’s just got it all right there. I think it’s a great program.”
According to administration, Intelligenz’s product offering, Intelli-Leisure, has the functionality the town requires, but will allow for goals to be met which were set out previously by council with respect to online capabilities. The product is also expected to make operations more efficient and allow for better utilization of resources.
Based on research conducted thus far, Intelligenz has become a popular choice in Alberta, and would allow for a degree of harmonization between the three partners for users.
Originally growing out of town council’s concerns regarding providing an online registration solution for recreation users, the project was only allocated $30,000 by the town, which would require council to endorse an additional $100,000 if it wished to see the project move forward.
“I was kind of shocked to see that $130,000,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger. “Our initial request from council was more or less to deal with the registration issues we had with the swimming pool, and maybe others, too — that actually got the ball rolling. I have a difficulty with this.”
DeVlieger went on to suggest administration may not have fully investigated a potential option provided by him that could represent a significant cost savings versus the Intelligenz software.
“At the last council meeting we talked about it, I gave the name of a person that thought this could be done a lot cheaper, but talking about online registration not about this whole list of other things. That person has never been contacted. I’m a little disappointed in that. I talked to that person over the weekend after I saw this RFP, and he still thinks that online registration can be done between $15,000 and $25,000. We’re living in a tough budget time now. We have systems in place, it’s maybe not perfect, but in my business I have systems in place that are 20 years old. I would love to see those updated, too. I think we have to look into this more. I cannot justify to the taxpayer spending $130,000.”
The town’s IT manager, Tom Moffat, countered that the option suggested by DeVlieger had been subject to some preliminary analysis, but had eventually been deemed insufficient for the town’s purposes by the rec board.
“I looked at the information that you sent about a software alternative that your independent came up with, and we did look at that. We did find it to be comparable in scope to the solution that we presented to the recreation board with another online software that we could have adopted. And it is a low cost option. At that time we were only looking at web registration. So that did not have any of the other capabilities for recreation that are included in this particular package. The recreation board decided that the way those systems operate was not really going to be accepted or usable by the public. They didn’t think they would have enough of the features that the public would want, or the ease of use that the public would want. They decided not to proceed with that particular solution.”
DeVlieger reiterated that the individual in question had not been contacted by town administration.
The total first-year start-up cost for the software program is $130,000 for the software and associated hardware. Following this, there would be an annual cost of approximately $11,500. The Town of Taber is currently paying $4,200 annually for CLASS.
“From our perspective, it’s much more than just online,” said Holmen. “I appreciate that there’s a problem with online, and that we want to add it. What we’ve found with some of these things is that it does not work with what we have currently to do the online, and to be successful and professional. All along, what we’ve been looking at is an overall recreation management software program. At the end of 2016, CLASS is done. We still need a recreation management software program. If we put this on hold now, we’re hooped at the end of 2016. Unless we go back to pen and paper booking formats.”
Holmen went on to suggest the program that had been selected and endorsed by administration was by no means a “Cadillac” system that disregards a need for fiscal responsibility on the part of the town.
“They won’t turn the switch off, but we also don’t get any service or any upgrades. So we’re having issues currently, and they’re not giving us any service, because that program is done. Our software is dated — I don’t say that just because I want some big Cadillac product, I really don’t, because if I wanted that, I’d be recommending a different product. What we’re looking for is a product that can do what we need it to do, and also has some expansion-ability.”