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Software contract leads to city-county dispute in Montana


Missoula County, Montana, is attempting to back out of an agreement with the city of Missoula to help finance a web-based permitting system for local government contractors. The situation highlights how important it is for tech companies to engage in best practices in executing software contracts, to ensure they receive payment regardless of client-side complications.

In June, the Missoula City Council approved an $894,000 contract with Accela Automation for a web-based system to streamline contractors' paperwork, with the understanding that the cost would be offset by an $86,000 contribution from the county, according to local news source the Missoulian. The source reported the county has since decided not to render the agreed-upon payment.

The county's decision was based on administrative factors related to the division of departments within the governmental bureaucracy, but also because city officials never fully persuaded county officials the deal was a good one. The Missoulian quoted the city's chief administration officer, Dale Bickell, who said that on the county side, "there was some staff resistance" to the deal.

Bickell told the source it will probably cost the county $20,000 to renege on its agreement to pay $86,000. However, the contract the city agreed to with Accela is being honored, and work is proceeding on the project. The city plans to fully cover the costs, and the necessary money will likely be requested from the city council in January.

In December, the city of Asheville, North Carolina, selected Accela to provide software to improve city services in areas such as building safety, transportation and engineering.