As reported by Kevin Craver in the Northwest Herald – this morning the Committee on Planning and Development (P&D) voted unanimously to end this contract. The contract was originally signed back in 2012.
The company selected had excellent references and the county believed the company could build a system that would allow residents of McHenry County to apply for permits online saving time (not having to drive into the county) and money (a desk attendant making sure the paperwork was correctly filled out). This automation would also allow people to file for their permits at anytime making the county government more accessible.
There were several scheduled payments that were made by the county; however, the contractor fell behind schedule. P&D staff worked with the contractor to re-arrange schedules of deliverables but the contractor continued to fall behind. By the time I was sworn in and attended my first P&D committee meeting this contract was already on the agenda.
The county invited the president of the company to attend the meeting but, for whatever reason, he did not show. Instead, the company sent two representatives who acknowledged that there were problems with turnover; however, the company assured the committee that they had been corrected. Moreover, they would give us a schedule of how they would propose to finish the project. The new proposed schedule came in to P&D on the afternoon it was due. Cautiously, the board went along with the schedule.
When the first set of deliverables were given to the county for approval – simply put – the deliverables did not meet expectations. The committee listened to several members of the staff who talked about working with the contractor but were still having problems.
I refuse to throw good money after bad
After listening to numerous people of the staff and listening to many of my colleagues on P&D, I could not help but think of another program that you are all paying for to this day. In 1996 (yes 1996) NASA decided to build the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Originally pegged at $895 million it would fly in 2009. The program was rebaselined to cost $1.5 billion and wouldn’t launch until 2010. While I will not go into the horror show that is the James Webb Space Telescope, that program is now 10 years behind schedule and at least $7 billion dollars over budget. This is throwing good money after bad.
While this contract isn’t the same size as “JW” it does have many similarities. Both programs experienced continuous delays. Both programs had a lot of work front end loaded. Both programs paid a lot of money up front which lead to the “sunk cost” fallacy and “too big to fail” mentality taking over the politicians controlling NASA, specifically Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
The right decision is to terminate the contract
I voted to terminate the contract as did everyone on the P&D committee. This was the right decision. We should not waste more money. We should not waste more time. The citizens of McHenry County have been patient with the company. The members of the McHenry County Board have been patient with the company.
We will have to clearly go out and rebid the program. Hopefully the new contract will use more milestones, much like a Space Act Agreement.
The contract will not be terminated until it passes the full county board.