MetCom was created by the State legislature in 1957 as a quasi-governmental, non-profit body to supply water and sewer service to the citizens of St. Mary’s County. Located in Southern Maryland, MetCom has been providing services since 1964. MetCom is governed by a board of Commissioners, consisting of seven voting members and one non-voting member. It operates outside of St. Mary’s government. Voting members represent Election Districts and are appointed by the Board of County Commissioners to serve three year staggered terms.
MetCom’s public water systems consist of 27 water systems, pumping 12.5 million gallons of water per day and 4 treatment plants, serving 36,000 people.
Lee Lee is the Purchasing Agent for MetCom, a position she has filled for over ten years. In total Lee Lee has been with MetCom for twenty-nine years, serving in positions such as customer service, accounting and, finally, purchasing. When Lee Lee assumed her purchasing position, there was very little training available for individuals who worked in governmental purchasing, so most of her training was self-taught. She eventually learned of the NIGP (National Institute of Governmental Purchasing,) an organization that offers training for government employees involved in purchasing. Lee Lee became certified through NIGP and continues to keep her certification current. Lee Lee’s responsibilities include supervision of one purchasing clerk, bidding for larger purchases, reporting, approving vendors and administration of the purchasing cycle.
Lee Lee said, “In our early beginning, everything was on a manual system, but since MetCom was small then, with 23 people in total, the situation was workable. As time passed, however, our organization grew to 80 employees, and purchases became more complicated. It was very apparent that we needed to seek out better and more efficient business processes to handle our increasing procurement needs. For example, we buy service contracts, chemicals for wastewater and water treatment plants, construction, engineering services contracts, general maintenance and repair services, lab services and many others. We generate over 100 purchase orders per month.
“MetCom automated its purchasing processes years ago through a customized program supplied by a software vendor. The program worked very well for about ten years; then, the software vendor went out of business,” stated Lee Lee. “We were unable to obtain the source codes, and we were nervous about ‘crashing,’” Lee Lee said. “It was clear to us that we needed to look for another provider.”
Lee Lee went on to say, “We evaluated three software companies by searching the web. All of them provided us trials for us to review. Bellwether was one of those three. We chose Bellwether because it had the functionality we needed and was very user friendly. That was three years ago.
We initially implemented the Purchasing and Receiving modules, and, last year, we added the Requisitions module. Managers have access to the Requisitions module, so they do the requisitioning, which is automatically routed through the approval system.
The implementation of Bellwether Purchasing Software went very well. We prepared for it in advance by cleaning up our vendor files and updating other information. We required very little help with the installation of Bellwether. The support materials provided was very easy to follow, and the Bellwether technical staff provided the small amount of assistance we did require. Ongoing support has been excellent, but the product is so easy to use, we rarely require assistance.
We use the Purchasing module a great deal as we do a lot of ongoing bids. The blanket PO is great, and the ability to track PO’s really helps. Now, I can put releases against a blanket PO. If I have to rebid or renew, I can access the history of the PO and find everything I need. The Requisitions module and the Receiving modules are also excellent and easy to use. The reports these modules generate are invaluable tools for our organization.
Bellwether Purchasing Software is user friendly and has the functionality we need. It is a reliable product that does not require a lot of technical support, though the support is great if we need it. We are satisfied customers and may even look to integrate Bellwether with our accounting software, HTE, next year.”