The Maneater University of Missouri- Columbia Jan. Bi-weekly Student Newspaper (online and print) 2011 -Nichole Ballard
Million dollar decisions face city council candidates "We have a broken system," CPD Chief Ken Burton said of Columbia's record system. By Nichole Ballard Published Jan. 25, 2011 Columbia City Council candidates attended an orientation Saturday morning to become acquainted with the most-pressing issues facing the city. Among the problems presented to them were a $50 million acquisition and a possible multimillion-dollar record system overhaul. Five potential members of the council listened to over three hours of presentations by various city administrators. Department heads gave an overview of their branch and the important issues the council will have to hash out this coming year. City Manager Bill Watkins told the candidates the most important issues included the $50 million acquisition of the Columbia Energy Center, the city's high turnover in staff, ward redistricting and replacement of old records management systems. "What all of our city and partner public safety agencies need are ways to collect, store and use information to help prevent problems and improve accountability," Watkins said in a letter. "Our collective records management systems should be easy to use and save time for those entering data." The records systems and the city management system (HTE) are both over a decade old. HTE, which includes utility billing management, is no longer supported by the vender and will most likely be replaced by a Windows system. "I would not be surprised to spend one and a half million bucks on that system," Watkins said. Public Communications, Columbia Fire Department and Columbia Police Department all backed Watkins' statement that the current records system needs fixing. "We have a broken system," CPD Chief Ken Burton said. Vacancies will need to be filled in the coming year as well. More than 10 percent of high-ranking administrators will be retiring in 2011 along with Watkins. One of the major goals of the Human Resources Department will be trying to figure out a strategy for knowledge retention for the retiring senior employee's said Margrace Buckler, Director of Human Resources. Buckler said most of those employees have 20 years or more of knowledge stored in their heads, which needs to be passed on. Other pleas to the candidates included autonomous police sub-stations, a new airport terminal and more funding for public works in general. Public Works Director John Glascock said he will probably give the council the most trouble. "The airport has had its best year since 1994, but public transportation is suffering," Glascock said. "We are quickly outgrowing the single Wabash Station, and we are in dire need of more funding. There is a limit to what we can do with the funding we have." Most of the candidates had very little to say during the meeting. Only a few spoke up with any questions. The biggest task the new candidates will have to tackle is the budget, a document that looked to be well over three inches thick with a deadline of Sept. 19.