Members of the Barron County Board of Supervisors Executive Committee approved a resolution Friday, June 7, 2019, that outlines proposed financing for an unbudgeted $422,000 contract for emergency communications software marketed by Spillman Technologies, a Utah-based emergency communications company.

The contentious, hour-long meeting also included discussions about the roles of County Administrator Jeff French and his staff and those of county department heads (in general) and Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald (specifically) in the budget process. Committee members questioned whether department heads always follow the proper chain of command when they draw up their budgets.

The evident breakdown in communications produced an unpleasant surprise for the County Board in April 2019 when (according to the resolution) “it was discovered the county’s … annual software payment fee (of) $88,784 was not” in the 2019 budget.

Moreover, if the county honors the contract, it will pay Spillman Technologies more than $422,000 for the duration of the five-year agreement to license the software to the Sheriff’s Department.

The software includes a database for the 911 emergency communications service, reports and investigative materials used by deputies, and the functions of the Barron County Jail.

Discussion swirled around how to fix communications between the Sheriff’s Department and county administration, how to handle the unbudgeted payment, and what should be done about a contract reached without the use of proper budgeting procedure.

The committee also talked about whether to hire a lawyer to help work out the contract problems or continue negotiations with Spillman Technologies, and whether to withhold payment if the company doesn’t clear up technical issues that have been experienced since the software went online earlier this year.

Eventually, the supervisors agreed to have French invite Spillman executives to talk things over with county authorities.

Fitzgerald offered the committee an apology for the oversight, and French noted he’d accepted it – orally and in writing.

“We need resiliency in this organization,” French told the committee. “As (the county’s) day-to-day leader, I have to work with every department head. There can be no animosity after this plan goes into effect.”

The resolution will be discussed in a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, June 17, 2019, at Barron.

Attending the June 7 meeting were County Board Chair Louie Okey, Dist. 16, Birchwood area, Don Horstman-vice chair, Dist. 26, Cumberland, Burnell Hanson, second vice-chair, Dist. 21, Rice Lake, Karolyn Bartlett, Dist. 5, Dallas, Marv Thompson, Dist. 20, and Jerry McRoberts, Dist. 19, both of Rice Lake, Russell Rindsig, Dist. 17, Haugen area, Stan Buchanan, Dist. 25, Rice Lake, and Dale Heinecke, Dist. 29, Cumberland.

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