Easton Councilman Peter Melan criticized city council for buying a $4,000 software package to collect real estate listings that he said could be compiled for free.
Council disagreed with his assessment, standing by Economic Development Director Dawn Hart's belief that the software would provide a more complex data listing than could be obtained by calling a local Realtors' association.
They also refused to go along with Melan's proposal that all future software or professional service contracts should be vetted by city council committees before coming up for a vote.
Last month council approved the purchase of ZoomProspector Enterprise software, which would outfit the city's office of economic development with easy and quick real estate listings for business owners looking to move to the city.
The package costs $4,000 with an optional annual renewal fee of $4,000. Melan said the city could get the same information by simply calling the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors.
"We're purchasing software that we can go out to the people and ask them to give us the data for practically nothing," he said. "So we're spending money on things we can get for zero dollars."
Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said city workers need to respond quickly when a prospective business owner wants to know what's available in his size range in the neighborhood where he wants to locate.
"We don't have it," Panto said. "We need that. We can't rely on commercial Realtors to do all of our work for us."
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Commercial Realtors often gloss over small parcels suitable for Downtown shops, Panto said. He had his own reservations about the purchase but decided to trust Hart. City council needs to trust its department heads to make good decisions, he said.
Melan's proposal that each contract be reviewed at the committee level could slow down city business, according to Councilwoman Sandra Vulcano.
"In my opinion, this is micro-managing," she said.
Melan was the only member of council to vote for his plan.
"It's not going to stop city business," Melan said. "It's one extra step. That's all this is."
Rudy Miller may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RudyMillerLV. Find Easton area news on Facebook.
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