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Adams County computer repairs taxing

By Trent Seibert Denver Post Staff Writer

March 24 - Taxpayers may have to pay an extra $100,000 because of the county's costly and problem-plagued property-tax computer system.

Texas-based CPS Systems, which sold the faulty tax computer system to the county, could be dissolved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court today if no one buys the company. That would force the county to either hire employees from the defunct company to work on the system or else buy new computer software.

Either option likely would cost at least $100,000, according to county estimates.

"I don't think we could have anticipated this," county commission Chairwoman Elaine Valente said. "We'll just have to roll with the punches."

Douglas County bought a similar computer system from CPS Systems in October 1997 and is considering similar options, Douglas officials said. Taxpayers there may also have to bear additional six-figure costs.

"We're trying to protect the county's interest in this situation," said Sharon Jones, Douglas County chief deputy treasurer.

Adams County is considering both options because without the company, the complex computer system that tallies property taxes could not be upgraded or fixed when bugs surface.

"My only concern is to keep this office operational," said Adams County Treasurer Helen Hill, who oversees the computer system.

The six-figure bill that Adams County residents may have to pay is in addition to thousands in extra costs that the county has had to pay since purchasing the $400,000 computer system in 1997.

For example, the county had to pay an auditing firm $13,000 for helping to balance the county's books because of computer glitches, which included shorting the Mapleton School District $1.5 million.

But Douglas County has one option that Adams County doesn't: When Douglas officials installed the system in March 1999, they kept their old system running in case of computer problems.

Both Adams and Douglas officials hope that another company will buy CPS Systems today.

CPS Systems appeared to be a rising company when Douglas and Adams counties joined hundreds of other cities and counties by buying the firm's tax computer systems.

Its vast expansion plans proved too grandiose, however.

Company President Ken Hoofard would fly around the country selling his computer systems, apparently without having the staff to create the software or to service software that proved flawed.

By the time the CPS Systems filed for bankruptcy Jan. 19, it was $12.5 million in debt.

Hoofard could not be reached for comment.

"There's no way we would have gone forward had we known,'" Valente said.

-- - (, March 27, 2000

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