Originally created 04/10/03

New computer plan proposed for schools



The Columbia County school system is looking at a new way to buy computers after three years of controversy over its bidding process.

Under a new proposal, computer purchases would be made through the Georgia Technology Authority and Western States Contracting Alliance, which have negotiated contracts with four "tier one" vendors - HP/Compaq, Dell, Gateway and IBM.

Technology Director Michael Kent told the school board Tuesday night that after years of buying generic computers, the system is having problems with parts and repairs. Buying from a major name-brand company would provide consistency, he said.

"In the past we have written our own (specifications), trying to get the best components without getting proprietary," Mr. Kent said. "We've run into problems with compatibility of parts, getting a group of parts to upgrade or keeping systems going because we have so many different models. We thought, 'There's got to be a better way to do this."'

Mr. Kent stepped into the position of technology director in 2000 and immediately encountered big problems.

His predecessor had ordered 1,200 computers, and "we found that 500 or more of them wouldn't boot up," Mr. Kent said.

In July 2001, the school system bought 971 computers from Exclusive Technology Group of Norcross, Ga. The process was challenged by ComputerOne owner Jimmy Bennett, who had submitted a lower bid. Superintendent Tommy Price, however, said ComputerOne had not met bid specifications.

This year, the assets of Exclusive Technology Group were sold to Global Embedded Solutions Inc., of Norcross, and the school system is "having trouble getting the new company to honor the two-year warranty," Mr. Kent said.

In August, the school system awarded a contract for 665 computers to ComputerOne because another vendor failed to meet bid specifications, although it turned out the vendor had been given incorrect specs.

If the board approves the change in purchasing procedure, Mr. Kent said, the plan is to send out the requests in mid-May, so the new computers could be ready for the new school year.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.