If you work with computers, you know that it can be easier to follow a bunch of bouncing basketballs than to fix a software error. The Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association (LYNAS) found that out when it discovered Nov. 13 that it had committed to spending the same $15,000 twice, due to a computer glitch.
In 1996, LYNAS — which represents the area between Lyndale and Penn avenues and 46th to 54th streets — committed $15,000 to Burroughs Community School, 1501 W. 50th St. The Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds were to help with basketball and storage facilities. Peg Mountin, the NRP program specialist for LYNAS, said the school district put off spending the money, and the school was eventually torn down and rebuilt.
So in December 2001, LYNAS reallocated the $15,000 for computer upgrades at Burroughs. Unfortunately, NRP’s PlanNet financial-tracking software didn’t identify the old contract for storage when the new computer contract was created.
LYNAS had now double-committed to Burroughs, but no one knew it.
Then, the school district added to the confusion: billing a $14,000 fence LYNAS had also agreed to buy to the out-of-date basketball storage contract, Mountin said.
And it got worse: the school district spent $2,000 more on the fence than the other contract called for. When Mountin called the school district for an explanation, she said she was told, "Well, you
got this and you got that and you got a fence.’ [I said] ‘Wait a minute. There isn’t a fence in this contract.’ So then the school district sent us a check for $16,000 and paid it back."
The city’s department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) wound up processing that check — where the money was mislabeled. PlanNet was simply unable to keep up with the twists and turns, and continued churning out reports indicating all was well.
After Mountin caught the double-contract error, LYNAS decided to honor both deals. Burroughs will get help for its basketball facilities and the computer upgrade it has already received.
To find the $15,000, LYNAS moved unspent NRP funds for stop signs, water-quality education materials and Lynnhurst Park enhancements.
Mountin said the PlanNet software was fixed a couple of weeks ago and will now accurately track reallocations.