News Column

Callaway to look at aging utility, computer systems

June 17, 2014

By Ben Kleine, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

June 17--CALLAWAY -- The city of Callaway has the software needed to institute electronic billing, but the city is unable to use it.

Springbrook software cost the city about $100,000 when it was purchased several years ago, Commissioner Bob Pelletier said. The city uses it for utility billing -- specifically for transferring information from electronic meters through two different services. To allow for electronic billing, the city needs to purchase a computer module.

Pelletier was unsure exactly how much the module would cost but estimated it to be a few thousand dollars.

But complicating what should be a simple fix is all of Callaway's computers run on Windows XP, which Microsoft no longer supports. Pelletier said if a computer crashes, the city could lose all the utility billing information on that hard drive.

Officials will discuss upgrading the city's utility billing at budget workshops, the first of which is Thursday. Pelletier said one of the electronic services used for meter collection has been ineffective. The company has proposed a $500,000 upgrade.

"Why spend $500,000 on a system that doesn't work?" Pelletier asked.

The city also collects information by manually reading some meters, which are more than 20 years old. With about $100,000 available for the project, the city could upgrade meters over a period of six or seven years, or the commission could choose to get a bond and replace all the meters at once.

"Mark my words: Water bills are going to be discussed because the cost will go up even though it should have been higher all along," Pelletier said.

Callaway officials also will consider upgrading its computer system and servers. Pelletier said some servers are eight years old. "It's time to get out of the 18th century," Pelletier said.

The workshop Thursday is at 4 p.m. at 500 Callaway Parkway.


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Source: News Herald (Panama City, FL)

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