Bibb tech issues could cause problems with marriage licenses, child support checks

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Major issues in Macon-Bibb County’s Information Technology Department that caused delayed child support checks and a daylong phone outage at the county jail came to light at a Tuesday commission meeting.

A group of elected officials and constitutional officers voiced their concerns to the Macon-Bibb County Commission about the department’s technology issues as IT deals with a shortage of employees and ongoing staff turnover, partially due to pay.

There are currently 17 IT employees and nine vacant positions. The plan is to fill the vacant slots in the coming weeks. Commissioners also asked that the county contract with an outside firm until the department is able to deal with the backlog.

The peak number of Macon-Bibb IT employees since consolidation was 24 in 2015, according to Julie Moore, assistant to the county manager for budget and strategic planning.

The IT department has been responsible for handling a significant technology overhaul, but the latest issues need to be addressed, Mayor Robert Reichert said.

“The IT director has already said we’re in the process of trying to hire replacement individuals for the ones we lost,” he said. “We’re not sitting up here asleep at the switch. We’re working, but this isn’t something you can snap your fingers and say in three weeks we’re going to have a solution.”

There’s been a snowball effect after some IT employees left during last year’s budget debates, said Brett Lavender, chief information officer for the IT Department.

“When we started talking about furloughs, budget cuts, people left because the market for IT professionals is real strong,” he said.

Having those positions remain unfilled, has led to the workload growing. Another area of concern for the county is compensation, County Manager Keith Moffett said.

There was also a countywide hiring freeze plan that’s impacted how quickly some IT positions could be filled.

Some commissioners questioned Tuesday how Reichert’s administration let the technology problems get so bad.

Commissioner Joe Allen said it’s imperative the county does whatever it can to have enough IT resources.

“Our backbone is the IT department,” he said. “If IT fails, we all fail because we can’t get nothing done.”

Plethora of IT problems

Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Philip T. Raymond III recapped some of the current technology shortcomings and others that could crop up.

He was joined at Tuesday’s meeting by Probate Court Judge Sarah Harris, State Court Judge Jeff Hanson, Tax Commissioner Wade McCord and other officials.

“We’re here to ask the commission’s unfettered support for whatever resources they need to keep all of the county’s IT resources running and running well,” Raymond said.

For nearly two weeks the Superior Court Clerk’s Office was unable to issue child support payments to parents.

Judges and court clerks rely on an electronic filing system for civil cases, but problems can arise with reviewing cases because of unreliable internet, Raymond said.

There are also family violence orders that have to be sent electronically to law enforcement agencies, as well as, marriage licenses that are now filed digitally. And there are new printers, scanners and computers sitting idle for weeks or months until IT can get them ready to use, Raymond added.

On one day earlier this month, the jail’s phone system stopped working and the Superior Court Clerk’s Office was told there were not enough resources in IT to send out some jury subpoenas, he said.

“If we can’t send out those jury summons, obviously we can’t perform our duties,” Raymond said. “If the tax commissioner can’t get tax bills out, if he can’t process tags, receipts and things as people come in then the county cannot collect that revenue. If Judge Harris’ computer fails then she can’t issue a marriage license.”