ES&S maintence costs skyrocket

From: charlie strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Sun Nov 11 2007 - 20:01:12 CST

ES&S is soaking it's customers for maintainece contracts so high that the pices exceeds the cost of buying new machines each election cycle!!

OVC should contact Bill Richardson and show him it's different business model that puts competition in the maintenance after-market. Richardson is a forward thinking governor who has invested in NM infrastructure: e/g building spaceports or establishing supercomputer centers that will attract businesses or save the state money in the long run.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Voting Machine Maintenance Bills Shock Clerks

By Trip Jennings
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— County clerks across New Mexico are in sticker shock.
    A year after Nebraska-based ES&S sold New Mexico a fleet of new voting equipment for $18 million, the firm sent out maintenance bills this summer to all 33 counties. The numbers were eye-popping for offices that are used to taking care of things in-house and paying next to nothing to maintain voting equipment.
    The expense to Bernalillo County topped $330,000 a year, before ES&S reduced it to $287,000, said Bernalillo County Clerk Mag gie Toulouse Oliver.
    For Doña Ana County, the bill was $79,000 a year, slightly higher than Santa Fe County's $69,000.
    Tiny Mora County, population just more than 5,000, got a bill for around $7,500 a year.
    ES&S has since agreed to give the state until Dec. 1 to re-negotiate the maintenance price tag on behalf of the counties, said ES&S regional manager Chris Moody.
    But however low the price goes, counties will likely be yoked to higher maintenance costs than ever before— an unexpected cost of New Mexico's conversion to a single, statewide paper ballot system last year.
    To accomplish the changeover to the new voting system— which Gov. Bill Richardson and other advocates said would ensure more accurate and accountable voting— New Mexico purchased 1,900 tabulators and 1,580 specially designed voting machines for disabled people from ES&S.
    Aft er being blind-sided by the maintenance bills for the new machines, many clerks are angry and said the blame should go beyond ES&S.
    "No one considered in that action the cost that was going to be incurred for ... maintenance of that equipment," San Juan County Clerk Fran Hanhardt said of the Legislature's decision to pass the new paper ballot system.
    The changeover to a paper ballot system was pressed for by Richardson as one of his top priorities during the 2006 session.
    
New one cheaper
    Some elections officials are already pondering whether to buy new machines when the current ones act up because of the pricey maintenance costs.
    "It's actually much cheaper to buy a new machine at $5,000 than to enter into this contract," Toulouse Oliver of Bernalillo County said.
    Previously, many of New Mexico's counties spent nothi ng or nominal amounts on maintenance because technicians on staff performed that work, county clerks and local elections officials said.
    But ES&S doesn't train and certify local technicians— such as county clerks' staffs— to maintain the tabulators it manufactures, meaning the firm or certain vendors certified by it can perform the service, Moody said.
    "It's like you bought a BMW," Moody said. "You don't want anyone else to work on it than BMW."
    Counties do have the option of contacting the manufacturer of the specially designed voting machine for the disabled community, known as the AutoMARK, to compare maintenance costs. ES&S does not manufacture the AutoMARK, although it did sell it to New Mexico.
    Moody, who oversees seven states for ES&S, most of them in the Southwest, said he hasn't heard many complaints from other states about maintenance agreements.
    In Ne w Mexico's case, maintenance kicked in after a one-year warranty ran out on the machines ES&S sold to the state.
    
Strained budgets
    For now, many county clerks are taking a wait-and-see attitude and hoping the state can bargain ES&S down to a much-lower price on voting equipment maintenance.
    "They are going to have come down a far piece for me to think it is a fair price," Hanhardt said of ES&S' initial charge to San Juan County of around $48,000 a year.
    Mora County Clerk Charlotte Duran hasn't told her County Commission of the unexpected expense because she wants to know the state-negotiated price first. But she acknowledged that whatever it is will set her office back.
    "We don't get much in our budget," Duran said.
    Chaves County Clerk Rhoda Coakley appears to have made up her mind. "I don't plan on taking thi s maintenance contract. It's an unreasonable cost," she said of the $32,600 ES&S charged her county for maintenance.
    Toulouse Oliver of Bernalillo County said she will consider the final negotiated price the state can come up with after talks with ES&S.
    At least one county has paid ES&S.
    Eddie Gutierrez, Sandoval County elections director, said he paid the firm even though he thought the price quote was much higher than the county has historically paid.
    He wanted coverage because of the local elections his office was coordinating this fall in Sandoval County.
    "I know I'm covered, so if the amount does change the county would have some of refund," Gutierrez said.
    The maintenance contract that ES&S hopes to lock up for voting equipment is an example of the firm's growing presence in New Mexico.
    In addition to selling voting machines to New Mexico, an ES&S subsidiary is maintaining the New Mexico Secretary of State's Web site, including its problem-plagued online campaign finance filing system.
    The firm, formerly known as Office Automation Solutions, was purchased by ES&S this spring to give the voting equipment giant entrance into providing online business service systems to secretary of state offices across the nation, according to an April ES&S press release.
    The firm is paid $14,000 a month for its services, said New Mexico Deputy Secretary of State Don Francisco Trujillo II.

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Received on Fri Nov 30 23:17:15 2007

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