Editorial: Weld County, Colo.'s Bad Dispatch Software Under-Delivers

The decision to award a new contract to a company called Spillman Technologies Inc. has turned into a multimillion-dollar mistake for taxpayers.

by Greeley Tribune, McClatchy News Service / July 10, 2014

Weld County’s do-over on a new software system for its emergency dispatch system is both frustrating and troubling.

It’s frustrating because who among us hasn’t discovered that a new software system at the office doesn’t quite perform as advertised? It’s troubling because it’s a multimillion-dollar mistake for taxpayers.

Weld officials confirmed in late June that its relatively new emergency dispatch software system wasn’t performing at the levels expected by those who use the Weld County Regional Communications Center.

About three years ago, both Weld County and the city of Greeley agreed the old software system was antiquated and needed to be replaced. About the same time, a dispute arose over who would oversee operations of the system. Greeley historically has operated the county’s dispatch system but, after months of talks, Weld County took over the job.

By all accounts, the decision to award a new contract to a company called Spillman Technologies Inc. was a big swing and miss.

For months we have heard grumblings among law enforcement officials, fire department officials and others that the system was slow and incompatible, and it actually hurt, rather than helped, communication among different agencies that responded to incidents. Communication across county lines, for example, is difficult with the Spillman system.

“The primary complaint that I hear is it needs to work faster,” said Greeley Police Chief Jerry Garner. “I just think we have grown to the point where we need something that will keep up.”

In addition, the county’s Records Department had to hire additional people to handle the same amount of work because of new obstacles posed by the system.

In the world of first responders, speed is of the essence. We all depend on emergency services personnel to help us when we need it, and they depend on seamless communications to do their job.

From where we sit, this was an embarrassing mistake. A new system may cost Weld County anywhere from $1 million to $3 million.

We hope the county and others on a joint committee that will review different vendors takes time to examine how such a bad decision was made and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

©2014 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)