Despite savings, some scoff at deal by Modesto Irrigation District
MODESTO, Feb 27, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Modesto Irrigation District leaders decided Tuesday to save $350,000 by spending $1.3 million.
The savings represents a discount for staying with a technology vendor and signing a second contract about a year earlier than planned -- sort of like extending cell phone service to snag a lower rate.
But some in Tuesday's audience scoffed at how it all happened, including last-minute pressure to keep from a losing a deal that seemingly never should have been in jeopardy.
At issue is the MID's wireless "smart grid" technology, including a network of computers and meters and sensors talking to one another and managing the district's electricity system. The MID bought Silver Springs Networks' package of software and hardware in 2008 and is due a $350,000 penalty because the firm didn't make an early deadline.
In a 2010 settlement, the district agreed to have the company subtract that amount from a future security phase -- by the end of February. That's Thursday, and staff didn't bring a contract to the board until Tuesday.
Jenny Kenoyer of Modesto questioned the wisdom of an apparently one-sided settlement and said she would be skeptical to continue dealing with a company that underperformed before.
"If we don't do it, we lose the money and they don't lose anything," she said.
Jennifer Machado said, "I hope we're not bringing in a wet dog and deal with the stink later."
The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau's Tom Orvis questioned the no-wiggle deadline that essentially left the MID with no options.
"We're trying to save the district $350,000," said Bruce Rankin, the MID's information technology manager. He added, "I apologize for springing it on us."
The district planned to pursue a second phase anyway, next year, Rankin said.
Extra security is needed, he said, to protect customer information and other MID data that might otherwise be vulnerable to attacks from inside, perhaps by a disgruntled employee, as well as cyberespionage from without.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.
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