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Board OKs districtwide efficiency study to include SAP


April 11, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District directors have heard the call from the farming community for an efficiency study and the study will move forward immediately.

The board also took a step Tuesday to look into what would be involved in removing a portion of the water department from the SAP computer system that has become a major source of controversy.

By a 3-2 vote on a motion by Director Bruce Kuhn, the board approved an efficiency study to analyze all district operations.

Directors Rudy Maldonado and Lloyd Allen voted for the study along with Kuhn. Board President Andy Horne and Director Stella Mendoza dissented.


Kuhn's motion came in the wake of a vote of no confidence by the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and a similar vote by the Imperial County Farm Bureau.

Both groups have said the IID board needed to conduct an efficiency study in light of problems with the SAP system.

The farming community has contended the amount it pays for water has risen as a result of rising costs associated with the district's information technology department, formed after the district brought in SAP

Kuhn said his motion was not tied to the two groups casting votes expressing a lack of confidence in the board. He said he had asked for the efficiency study issue to be placed on the agenda before the votes.

Kuhn said he thinks the study is necessary in light of a recent action by the IID board majority to have the water department pay 24 percent of costs associated with computer services. The power side is to pay 76 percent.

IID staffers said the 76/24 split represents the use the water and power sides get from the computer systems.

Kuhn has argued that 76/24 cost split goes against the initial intention of the board in the late 1990s that purchased the SAP system and called for a continuing 90/10 division of costs.

Kuhn said SAP was purchased for the power department in the wake of state legislation calling for a deregulated power market.

The current IID board this summer changed the split for this year's budget to 76/24. That outraged farmers, who then pushed for an efficiency study.

In recent weeks the board has gone back and forth on the computer-cost split. Kuhn during a recent meeting gained enough votes to have the split return to 90/10.

Two weeks later the majority of the board returned the split to 76/24. That action, Kuhn said, led him to call for the efficiency study, which will cost the district about $600,000.

Local farmer Steve Scaroni, a member of the Farm Bureau and the Vegetable Growers Association, was pleased by the board's vote.

"It is paramount that we have this study," he said. "We are going to more than pay for the study in the efficiencies and processes that will come out of this if the directors will implement what the study says needs to be implemented."

Scaroni, also on the board of the local Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business, said that group passed a resolution in support of such a study.

While the board split on the efficiency study, it voted unanimously to study whether it would be possible to remove a portion of the water department from SAP.

A study group has been established to look at what it would cost to bring in a new computer system to handle water order entry, a key service of the water department.

Mike King, water department manager, said a new system for water order entry, one separate from SAP but that could communicate with SAP, would allow for better water tracking.

Removing water order entry from SAP does not address the billing problems, a key concern in the farming community.

Lauren Grizzle, executive director of both the Farm Bureau and the IVVGA, said the IID board took an important step Tuesday by looking at water order entry.

However, she said the critical move was when the board approved the efficiency study to look at whether the SAP system can work for the district.

IID staffers said the billing problems farmers have discussed have been worked out. Those problems relate to delays in certain water billing and delinquent payment notices.

IID staffers added the SAP system has come under fire unduly.

"I keep hearing comments about SAP not working and those statements are made without detailed facts," said Gabe Marcial, IID information technology manager.

Kris Fontaine, IID chief financial officer, said when the board voted to purchase SAP the cost was "substantially" less than comparable software programs.

Staffers said the problems with SAP are not from SAP itself but an issue of processes within district departments not being ready to fully utilize SAP.

IID staffers said there would be issues to work out no matter what software system was purchased.

On Tuesday, Kuhn called on the board to delay filling seven positions in the information technology department until the board takes action on possible changes to the water department's use of SAP. The board voted to support that idea.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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