Despite push back, Sumter County commissioners Tuesday approved a $5.8 million no-bid technology services agreement.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold defended the three-year contract with The Villages Technology Solutions Group and said commissioners have some flexibility to award no-bid contracts.
“Not everything is going to be a hard bid,” he said. “As we’ve grown as an organization, the IT (Information Technology) demands have grown over time. There are a lot of services that are covered within this contract.”
The company is owned by Charles Dale Borrowman, who lives at Glen Hollow Farms on the Morse family compound along County Road 466. Borrowman donated $1,000 to each of the campaigns of three commissioners who were defeated in last month’s election.
Arnold said the company offers 24-hour cybersecurity services and will develop a services template that can be adopted by other counties.
The company also provides services to The Villages District Office and other municipalities.
But Carl Yauk, a career information technology specialist, told commissioners there are pitfalls in offering a no-bid contract.
He said performance bonds are an important tool to ensure that standards are met.
“Any time you customize a purchased software package, you are asking for trouble,” he said. “Higher costs, delays and constantly having to pay the vendor for any changes.”
Yauk said the county needs to address issues of whether the county can sell the software and who can make changes.
“IT systems are complex,” he said. “Just look at some of the systems that were developed by vendors for the State of Florida that did not work. Years late and millions of dollars over budget.”
Incoming commissioner Oren Miller suggested a shorter contract.
“Our of respect for commissioners coming in, I would like to ask this board not to sign contracts for three, four or five years,” he said.
But current commissioners defended the contract.
Commissioner Doug Gilpin said bias against The Villages could be fueling the opposition.
“Right now in our environment, anything that matches with The Villages is all bad,” he said. “That’s not true.”
Gilpin said the contract can be terminated at any time.
“We went from 10 years ago being very behind the curve with IT to being up with everyone else,” he said.
Commissioner Al Butler said The Villages Technology Solutions Group is the best IT firm in the community.
Sumter County first hired the company in 2010 for general IT services and programming. A year later, the county began to outsource management of its IT infrastructure to the company. The scope of the agreement later expanded to include GIS services, computer systems support and voice over IP telecommunications systems.
TSG also provides technical support for Sumter County constitutional officers, including the tax collector, supervisor of elections and property appraiser.