IOWA - Union, Polk Tiff Over Y2K, Consultants' Bills Continue To Add Up : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Union, Polk Tiff Over Y2K

By ARTHUR KANE Register Staff Writer 04/07/2000

Two computer consultants heading up Polk County's Y2K preparations cost taxpayers nearly $300,000 last year, records show, and the consultants' bills continue to add up.

Information Technology Director Karen Gaddis said the consultants were the most cost-effective way to fix the millennium computer glitch. But county union leader John Rowen questioned why the programmers each made more than County Manager Teree Caldwell-Johnson last year and continue to work for the county at $75 an hour.

"The county manager has a ton more responsibility, and here are two employees making more money," Rowen said. "They're hired for Y2K and for them to still be here, it makes me even more curious."

The county spent about $2.5 million last year to combat the potential Y2K problem. Experts feared that computers programmed to read only the last two digits of a date might malfunction when the calendar turned from 1999 to 2000.

In 1999, Deena Pries, who supervised the mainframe program for the county, was paid $154,818.75, and Julie Guzman - who directed work on personal computers, software and embedded chips - collected $133,818.75, county records show. Gaddis said demand for Y2K troubleshooters inflated fees, and the consultants stayed on because the treasurer's system had to be updated by tax time in September.

"People left the county to double and triple their salaries," Gaddis said. "At the time, the market was just demanding higher salaries for these people."

County spokesman Phil Roeder supplied an estimate from Austin, Texas-based Computer Technology Associates, asking for $2.1 million to do just part of what Pries and Guzman did for the county.

Paul Carlson, who headed Iowa government's Y2K project, said the state came in more than $2 million under budget because officials hired lower-level programmers at $45 to $65 an hour and had state employees manage and coordinate the programming.

"We call it maximizing internal resources," he added. "We use consultants to complement what we couldn't do ourselves. That was why we were able to achieve such an economy of scale."

Rowen wondered why the county, which recently rehired Gaddis at a $20,000 pay increase and has been adding new information technology positions, couldn't follow the state's lead.

Christine Van Meter, president of the Polk-Des Moines Taxpayers Association, said $75 an hour might not be out of line, as contract employees get no benefits.

The payments, made to companies incorporated by Pries and Guzman, made the two women the second- and third- highest paid employees last year. Pries made $10,000 less than the county's top earner, Medical Examiner Dr. Francis Garrity.


-- (, April 07, 2000

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