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Court system seeks computer upgrades in FY 2014 budget

 

Carl Smith

 

Aldermen signaled their support Thursday for a small budget request to finish a two-year computer upgrade process for the Starkville Municipal Court system but said a project to digitize court and city clerk records would have to wait until funding becomes available. 

 

Court Administrator Tony Rook asked the Starkville Audit and Budget Committee to consider replacing four computers next fiscal year for approximately $5,200, a move that would complete an upgrade process started last year by the board. The city replaced three of the department's seven computers this fiscal year. 

 

Rook also asked the committee, comprised of Ward 5 Alderman and Chairman Scott Maynard, Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, to fund an educational assistance program, as allowed by city policy, for clerk currently enrolled in criminal justice classes at Mississippi University for Women. The program reimburses employees for tuition and books based upon their letter grades. For example, an employee can receive a 100 percent reimbursement for earning an A, while a C would entitle them to a 50 percent payback.  

 

Aldermen showed their support of Rook's computer request but said a more expensive project, upgrading computer and hardware to allow document digitization, would have to wait. Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams estimated upgrades to cost at least $35,000. If the city wants to begin digitization in both the court department and city clerk's office, it could push the total closer to $50,000, he said. 

 

"Electronic filing is very important. We have 42 filing cabinets scattered not only throughout all three offices, but also the hallway when we run out of space," Rook said.  

 

"We'll continue to note that it's something for the future," Maynard said. "I think ultimately, we'll have to get there." 

 

Rook said the court system is running at full capacity now, and a 4 percent raise helped improve employee morale and retention. 

 

The department had one highly visible instance of turnover last year when former Clerk Debra Wood resigned in October. Aldermen that month discussed a personnel matter behind closed doors and then voted 6-0 to give Wood option of resigning or face termination. 

 

Before that meeting, The Dispatch learned of an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing involving a municipal court employee; however, aldermen did not comment the potential investigation or its action besides the motion's wording. 

 

"We're in as good of shape as we've ever been," Rook said Thursday.  

 

The court recorded a significant decrease in the number of misdemeanor, felony and traffic citation cases it handled in 2013. The number of new cases, 10,008, decreased by almost 3,000 compared to 2012.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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