Barton County Treasurer employees asked to meet with The Tribune Wednesday to talk about problems that are ongoing with a conversion to new software that is preventing them from being able to reliably complete their work for the county. Incomplete work that has left County Treasurer Kevin Wondra in the hot seat for several months.
“Conversions are always hard,” said Renee Mater. “We’re all working very hard to figure out how to do things.”
Comments reported in a Tribune story Tuesday, July 22, prompted the meeting because Mater and fellow employees Rachel Neiman, Teresa Cass, and Katrina Froetschner feeling like their department was under attack by County Commissioners.
“It’s humiliating,” Mater said, to the agreement of the others. “And now we feel like we’re working in a hostile environment. We’re afraid to do anything.”
In April 2013, the county made the switch from a proprietary software system designed several years prior by a county employee to updated software recommended by Computer Information Concepts, Inc. They complained there was very little formal training prior to the roll out of the live version of the program, and while trainers were available on site during the initial period to offer help and instruction, it was often chaotic with problems arising that needed to be fixed during the training period.
When asked if this sounded typical, Pam Meadows with CIC said she had never heard these allegation before, and that employees signed off on the training they received at the time it was given. Without communication from County Treasurer Kevin Wondra, she reserved further comment on the subject.
Meadows set up training for county employees when the conversion began and is the consultant hired by the county in May to reconcile tax rolls and several bank accounts for the county. It needed to be done so this year’s audit could be completed.
Meadows isn’t the only person who hasn’t heard complaints about the training before. County Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said she had never heard any word from Wondra or any employees from the Treasurers office, or any other county office, that training had been inadequate. The Tribune attempted to contact Wondra for comment at his office on Thursday, but was told he was unavailable because he was on vacation.
Besides the conversion from the old software to the new software, the State of Kansas rolled out a new motor vehicle registration program that employees had to learn, and then in January of this year, the State also rolled out a new commercial vehicle piece to the program. So in total, three programs need to interface with each other. Employees in the office are frustrated because that interface is problematic, which they feel only adds to the difficulties of the conversion.
The problems with the commercial piece are problems for several other counties too, Meadows said. CIC is aware of the problem, and the company has arranged a symposium with the state to discuss these issues with all CIC users, she said. She points out that the issues with this particular program are not caused by county employees.
“These are good peope who are just trying to do their job,” she said, “the problems they are encountering with this program is because of something out of their control.”
But these issues are new issues, Meanwhile, employees say the analyst hired for the department continues to find problems in other areas, problems that translate to incorrect figures being produced for various reports.
Employees think the new system will work once everybody is on board, however.
“I think that once we clean up from the conversion, I think it’s going to work the way they want it to work,” Froetschner said. “But nobody can do it overnight. It’s a year’s worth of work, and probably beyond that to be honest.
But time, and patience, is running out for school districts and other entities in the county to get their budgets submitted by their deadlines.