The Hammond Village Board began the process of reviewing vendors to rebuild the village's IT infrastructure in May 2018.

The village had history with one of the vendors, Computer Integration Technologies, Inc. (CIT). Their proposal got the clear support of Board President Tony Bibeau and Clerk/Administrator Sandi Hazer in early discussions despite questionable terms in their proposal and an illusive price tag.

The News wrote this about the Village's May 21 board meeting, "As the answer, 'it depends,' frequently became the answer to questions about the hard costs in the CIT proposal, trustees became increasingly uncomfortable with what Bibeau characterized as 'the way of business in the world of computer technology,' until they tabled further discussion absent two more proposals and references from other CIT customers addressing how much CIT's services actually cost."

At their June 11, 2018 meeting, trustees approved a contract with CIT to provide IT services to the village. The initial cost of the contract was supposedly $40,000, the details of which were confusing; new server $18,604; one-time setup fee $700; monthly maintenance fee $245; managed backup services $120 per hour; and somewhere in there, a $10,000 retainer.

Eight months later the CIT contract is a mess.

The only village official alarmed enough about CIT's performance thus far is Police Chief Rick Coltrain.

During Monday, Jan. 28's board meeting, Coltrain, at one point in his 10-minute critique of CIT, summed up his department's experience saying, "It's been horrible. Our computers have never run this slow. I've been here for 25 years and I've never had computer problems like this. Never where we couldn't operate. Maybe I got lucky. With this new system, although I think it's going to work out fine, it has really been a struggle for us lately."

Coltrain's persistent texts to Bibeau explaining his department's dire, and potentially dangerous, inability to effectively use its computers eventually convinced Bibeau to contact CIT to emphasize the urgency of the situation.

According to a CIT representative at Monday night's meeting, "Typically what happens when we set up a new customer, we tell them, up to six months you're going to have some ups and downs, we're going to figure things out. We're getting close to that six months here."

Hazer, who appeared pleased with CIT's technical performance so far in her department, took issue with CIT's financial performance.

"Your billing is, excuse my language, crap. I was getting bills that were marked paid. So I assumed they were part of the initial proposal for the server and for this and that and the other. Then your billing department comes back and says, 'These invoices aren't paid even though we sent them out stamped paid. They're not paid because we thought you would do another retainer.' So, even if I had (done a second retainer), I already would have been $6,000 in the hole on that next retainer for invoices CIT marked paid," said Hazer.

Although there have been some issues with other departments, which Bibeau characterized as "growing pains," none have risen to the paralyzing level the police department has encountered.

Coltrain's list of complaints included frequent turnover of CIT employees working in his department, failure of CIT to return calls, failure of techs to complete projects, misrepresentation of CIT's bonding in Wisconsin which legally should prevent them from working for the police department, failure to clearly inform him of pending changes and updates impacting the operation of his system and failure to inventory the police department's existing equipment and recommend upgrades necessary for the CIT system to work.

CIT, Inc., a company of about 100 employees, is headquartered in Woodbury, Minn. Without the proper bonding of their employees in Wisconsin, CIT is legally prevented from working on a police department computers due to security issues surrounding the information on those computers.

"I was told by the people in Madison there were no fingerprints on file until Friday. She (CIT employee) had overnighted 15 of them to get on the system. I left her a message before the meeting tonight. Three weeks ago, I gave her until the end of the month to get this done otherwise CIT will not be able to work on my computers anymore," said Coltrain.

Other business

• Trustees approved Cedar Corp.'s request to begin work on a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application to partially fund the Vine Street construction project.

• Trustees instructed Attorney Tim Scott to review the village's recently renewed contract with the union in light of the union's notification that it would no longer offer insurance coverage to full-time police officers who are not union members beginning at the end of 2019.