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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Help lines



I’ve been forced to the help line on a daily basis recently.  Week days, that is.  I don’t often go to work on weekends. 

My little township, population 698, many of them children who don’t vote, is alligator deep in the federal government.  It was that way when I became clerk nine years ago.    I’ve told the trustees I believe the nice old clerk before me did not run for re-election because he had to register with CCR.  It was the first thing I did, in order to get grants we applied for.

CCR.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, no?  Actually, Central Contractor Registration.  It was a formidable data base if I noodled around it, but the township simply needed their name and address out there to be matched up with all the paperwork I submitted and the nice federal grant check to arrive in the mail.  Later on the nice federal grant arrived straight into the checking account.  Those were the days!

This past fall the feds decided to streamline.  It’s probably been in the works for years; I can almost see Al Gore’s internet finger in this, but that’s only speculation.  My friendly little CCR and all my paper vanished, rolled into SAM. System for Award Management. My technically illiterate self had to belly up and fill in the formidable data all the big central contractors had supplied for years.  I called the help line and went through the process stroke by stroke. 

Drained and stupefied at the end, I told the wonderful help line woman I didn’t have strength to remain on the line to take the satisfaction survey. But, there it was in my email.  I gave her ten of ten for everything and considered my problems ended.

Did you notice, SAM passes out “awards.” No money.  That is a platform called ASAP.  Of course it is incomprehensible, so I called help.  This help came straight from the federal reserve help desk.  The money comes from the federal reserve banks of the US Treasury, of course, and the tic boxes about messing with them can put you under the desk if a calm help person isn’t guiding your finger on the mouse.

I follow instruction well and now my township is set up to receive grant payments.  I stayed on the line and passed out ten of ten attaboys for the wonderful help.  Then the road super, who actually submits our grant requests for road assistance couldn’t access the account I bravely set up for him, on my own, on SAM.  Like two little kids we sat in front of my computer, called help and ticked the box I’d missed.  He made the December application deadline.

Don’t be thinking it’s over.  No.  The trustees made a contract with DOI (Department of Interior), which runs the federal parks, to do a teeny little job for the park.  Apparently contracts are not awarded.  I don’t care; I only want the township paid.  The contract platform is called IPP.  It’s not up and running yet.  “So sorry, this is not business as usual, please bear with us, bla, bla bla”. I have a Rolodex card for them, but there is no help line or password written down.  For the record, the township has fulfilled its obligation for the last three months of the seven month contract that ends in May.

But wait. There’s more.  The township is an entity of the state of Ohio.  We report to the Auditor of State (AOS).  We use government accounting software, which has remained unchanged since implemented almost twenty years ago.  Upgrades turned it into DOS with lipstick, but still DOS.  AOS intended to roll out a shiny Windows version effective January 1, 2012.  Every fiscal officer (that’s what we’re called now) in the state must have emailed:  this is ludicrous.  Every fiscal officer in the state stands for re-election for 2012 and takes office on April 1st.  Training new electees  in a fairly new program, as well as the job and the law that governs it, is stupid. AOS held off for a year.

You know what I was doing on January 2, 3, and 4, 2013.  Rolling up a new accounting program, after closing the old program with all the reports required by Ohio Revised Code.  ORC, to those of us who live by it. When we call the United Accounting Network (UAN) help line we give our entity number to be logged in.  I’ll bet UAN’s reports at the end of the week had a page or more of my township’s number.  I gave all the helpers ten of ten.  I’ll be calling them again on Monday.


Boston Township Hall

   

22 comments:

  1. Dear Heaven !
    I'll never complain about anything again !!

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  2. Just keep saying, "technology is our friend, technology is our friend".

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  3. Congratulations on muddling through that alphabet soup!

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  4. Glad to see our Government running efficiently.

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    1. This all came about because the national park owns most of our township. Rangers are housed all over the township. They're all rangers; even the director wears a uniform I think of them, under a mile away, not having a clue how to use these platforms. I remember saying to one help person "I'm the dog and pony show and the clowns don't have a clue." The helper proceeded calmly, "Now you need to hover your mouse over...."

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  5. I must confess I am confused, who are what are these grants for ?

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    1. Long story short, there are fewer than two hundred properties in my township paying taxes to maintain township grade roads travelled by over 2 million people annually. First or second most visited part in the country. The federal government does not have to maintain these roads, so they do not. They don't pick up the litter 2 million people drop, either, or plow the roads in the winter. It is a unique situation. Instead of maintaining roads the federal government allows us to receive matching grants to make summer repairs. People who have lived here all their lives rightly feel violated. It's a situation I moved into; I shrug my shoulders and do the job they elected me to do.

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  6. ...and that's why I am happily retired! In Auguat I agreed to contract with our school district to write a few grants for a capital project. I'd been retired so long that I had forgotten what a nightmare the process was. Good for you for sticking with it. There are some parts of the process that have really been upgraded by the new technology...and others that, well lets just say they aren't very helpful. I'm a smart person and read directions well, but some of these grants are impossible.

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  7. If it's any comfort at all, everything government related here in Canada is similarly "improved" with new software. Generally speaking, each "upgrade" adds time to procedures AND allows less information to be extracted. It's an art form, really.

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  8. wow, I admire your dedication to do all this for your town!

    betty

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  9. While I don’t directly know you I have to admit, reading the post I was all proud that one of the bloggers I follow had such a roll-up-the-sleeves-get-the-job-done attitude. Perseverance makes a big difference when dealing with any type of change and it’s often easy to give up before the positive aspects of the change can be seen. Sounds like you’re doing an amazing job (and have an amazing memory if you can keep track of all those acronyms). Good luck to you and your helpers. It sounds like it may be a long year for you.

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  10. Bless you and all the others who wade hip deep through all the paper-work and baloney necessary to bring funding and "awards" to the needy and deserving.

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  11. I worked for a construction company for fifteen years before I retired. When we would be asked to do jobs that involved government on any level, I could not put the phone down faster. No way did we want to get involved in all that red tape and bureaucracy. NIGHTMARE!!!

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  12. Acronym soup!!! I think I would have the help lines on speed dial and really admire your persistence.

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  13. I'm impressed. That's the sort of thing I'm hopeless at. I'd be tearing out my hair...unless I had some training and the opportunity to do things over and over until it "sunk in" and I really don't think I have that level of patience anymore. I have the attention span of a gnat.

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  14. Talking on the phone stresses me out. If I got a memo to connect with CCR, you know I'd be strolling through my playlist, not my rolodex.
    Kudos to you, and your relentless goal to get paid!

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  15. What a conundrum, I see fully why the grants are needed amazing that that many visitors pass by a year.

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  16. Well, I'm glad you got it all straightened out. I'd be in a coma.

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  17. I suspect more and more that France and the u.S. have more similarities than i first realised...now it's mad bureaucracy...

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  18. Resolute. Determined. Responsible. Constant in Aim and Effort. May you be blessed with the physical and mental strength to see this all through.

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  19. Plowing through the red tape, that's you!!

    Good job. :-)

    Pearl

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