By Jonathan Pleasant
When Circuit Court Clerk Carolyn Wilson Hawkins first took office nearly 15 years ago, one of her goals was to bring the job into the modern era by introducing the first computer systems to the office. While the number of cases seen each year has grown exponentially in the decade and a half since those first computers were installed, the level of technology being used has not.
In a world where it seems like every day newer and faster systems are hitting the market, those first units installed in the courthouse have now become vastly outdated. Utilizing Windows 98 operating systems, even some of the more basic programs will not function on these aging machines, forcing employees in the office to hand write many documents that could be done digitally and maintain stacks upon stacks of hard copy paperwork that take up considerable amounts of storage.
The system has been seeing increasing problems that have actually slowed down day-to-day work with regularly occurring maintenance issues. According to Melissa Holloway, the offices bookkeeper and Juvenile Court Clerk, there was even one occasion where a surge kicked the employees out of the system 14 times in a single hour, causing them to have to log back in each time and abruptly halting whatever they were working on.
The final straw came last June when the company that initially installed the workstations was bought out by a new operation named Saratoga. With the software used for the county courts, regular updates are absolutely necessary to keep up with the changes coming down from the state level. When it was discovered that Saratoga would no longer be installing these updates, the clerks office began looking for a change.
With Hawkins full blessing, Holloway took it upon herself to begin researching potential new companies that could provide services that would greatly improve the countys capabilities. After looking into several options Holloway was introduced by Greg Brush, an auditor with the state, to the Local Government Corporation from Columbia, Tennessee. Serving 83 counties and even the state courts themselves, the company immediately stood out as having the least risk and the most reliability. Even more important was the knowledge that the countys accounts and budgets department has already been using Local Government Corporation for years with excellent results.
With a total of six units to be updated, the new company not only met all of the criteria from the clerks office, but also offers an assortment of new possibilities that will hopefully save time and money in the future. According to Holloway, with the new system the county would be able to compile and accurately detail reports of past due balances, would eliminate costly certified mailings that have to be sent at regular intervals, could digitally log daily reports, and more efficiently and accurately maintain daily finances, among the many other new features.
The new system is also essential to other goals for the clerks office, including the creation of a website where the public will be able to access information about the courts, including dates and docket information, as well as specifics concerning how to pay fines. The technology can also allow credit card transactions and will provide the ability to look up a case through several different methods including Social Security number, drivers license, date of birth, or citation number, whereas under the current system the only method is to search by name.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.