New software to run Macon-Bibb County’s court system is coming soon at an estimated cost of at least $1.6 million.
But the purchase is well worth it and will be a money-saver in the long run, said Judge William Adams, chief judge for the State Court of Bibb County.
“The need is desperate,” he said. “We’re just one malfunction away from a disaster.”
For now the courts are “limping along” with help from consultants, but the existing mainframe is at capacity, and current software can’t be adapted any more to meet changing needs, Adams said.
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“We’ve been fairly regularly having something go wrong that’s hard to get fixed,” he said.
In September, Macon-Bibb commissioners approved paying Owen Lewis Consulting, of Saline, Michigan, $197,920 to help find new court software, estimate costs and provide technical help. The same firm helped Macon-Bibb with its new software for the consolidated government, County Manager Dale Walker said.
Last fall, court officials started reviewing their case management system in preparation for getting a better one, Walker wrote in a report given to commissioners this past week. The new system will serve State Court; the State Court clerk, probation office and solicitor general; civil and magistrate courts; municipal and probate courts, Superior Court and the district attorney, his report said.
“Court Case Management is the coordination of court processes and resources to allow cases to progress in a timely fashion from filing to disposition,” Walker wrote.
A request for bids went out Jan. 5, and an eight-member selection committee of eventual users narrowed the responses to three finalists:
$1.6 million, Icon Software Corp., Suwanee;
$1.9 million, Journal Technologies Inc., West Logan, Utah;
$3.4 million, Tyler Technologies, Plano, Texas.
Those estimates are of total costs spread over six years.
Demonstrations and site visits are going on now, with a selection expected by mid-March, and a “project start” April 6, Walker said. That’s when commissioners will be asked to approve a purchase, Assistant County Manager Charles Coney said via email.
“There are significant gaps between the features the Courts have expressed they need as compared to what they currently have,” Walker wrote.
The modern court system is heavily dependent on technology, and new software is long past due, Adams said.
“We’ve been operating on this old -- by technological standards, darn near prehistoric -- software from the ‘80s,” he said. Its durability is a testament to how good it was, but now it’s hard to maintain and can’t perform some tasks the law has added to court duties in recent years, Adams said.
That means extra work for consultants and for court staff. Even when the new software is in place, it may take six months to transfer the huge amount of data and get it running, he said.
Coney said “go live” date proposals range from October 2015 to May 2016.
But over the long term, the result will be time savings as court staff can create tailored reports automatically and pull up multiple case files for the same person at once, Adams said. It also should let information be shared between law enforcement, prosecutors and the court by interfacing with Macon-Bibb software, meaning each agency won’t have to enter the same information multiple times, he said.
Coney said the new system is expected to reduce paper flow, allow easy electronic filing and payments, and give better public access to records, It needs to be able to change and expand, deal with heavy case volume and track bench warrants, he said.