Carroll Co. terminates digital map contract

Officials note errors in project originally set for completion in 1999

May 08, 2002|By Childs Walker and Ellie Baublitz | Childs Walker and Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

Noting myriad errors and delays, the Carroll County commissioners have terminated the county's contract with a Baltimore engineering firm that was supposed to create a digital map of the county for use by 911 emergency workers.

Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson - which has been paid $468,000 of the $541,000 contract - was to have delivered the map in January 1999 but moved back that date numerous times while trading blame with the county for problems.

Now, the county has no contract, no completed map and no idea how much work lies ahead on the state-funded project or how long the work will take. County officials, who got an update on the project yesterday, said they won't pay the company the $73,000 balance on the contract and might seek a partial refund if the county can't finish the project on its own.

"We're certainly disappointed in the delays, but that's why we had to end our relationship with that firm," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "They weren't giving us what we paid for."

Officials from Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson did not return phone calls yesterday.

The map had been billed as a necessary public safety improvement for a rapidly growing county where building locations are not always clear from existing maps.

County officials said the updated map information they have from the firm's work is better than what they had in 1997 but remained unclear yesterday how much of the project remains unfinished, when it would be done or whether county staff can complete it without outside help.

A committee will begin meeting Friday to assess how the work should be completed, said Howard S. Redman, administrator for Carroll's Office of Public Safety.

The delays are not creating a major problem with emergency services, Redman said. He estimated that about six dispatches a year have significant problems locating properties.

County commissioners said yesterday they are disappointed that the relationship with Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson had soured but remain optimistic that county workers can finish the project.

"We have the impression that this is not a major setback to the project," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Gouge said the county could have done a better job communicating internally and with the firm about problems with the project. "But I honestly don't know where the breakdown occurred," she said.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said the commissioners shouldn't face criticism for delays in the project.

"My impression is that the contract was not being filled, we tried to be patient, and when that didn't work, we needed to get out, which we've done," she said. "I'm not sure how much of the project is completed, and I guess that's what we need to figure out now. That's where we are."

Redman said sample maps from the firm received over the past three years contained multiple errors but that when the county sent the maps back, firm engineers said the county had not provided sufficient information. After receiving the latest incomplete version of the maps March 21, Redman asked the commissioners' permission to terminate the contract and sent a termination letter April 19.

In retrospect, he said, he wished he hadn't so routinely accepted the firm's repeated requests for more time.

"We need that plan, and we tried to give them what they needed to do the job, and they didn't do it," he said.

Redman estimated that to complete the digital maps, the county would have to add properties built over the past three or four years.

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