Commissioners continued to search for a more creative solution to fund the software purchase
Following a brief discussion last week, the Butler County Commissioners began their meeting on Tuesday morning by brainstorming funding options for the replacement of the county’s criminal justice software supplies.
“Last week, the commission questioned the funding on this issue,” began County Administrator Will Johnson. “The question was whether or not to fund the supplies from the reserve fund.”
“I just wanted to make sure we have explored all of the possible sources within our fund portfolio to see what would appropriately be available,” said Commissioner Ed Myers. “Prior to today’s meeting, I went through a list of different funds in the county. I’ve listed 30 different funds here to consider. A number of them would not be eligible to contribute to this particular purchase, but would there be a chance that any of these funds could also be enrolled?”
“There are several of them on here and most of them that are tied to the county sheriff or the attorney’s office could definitely work,” said Johnson.
“If we got budgetarily in trouble, would you be able to transfer these funds over?” asked Commissioner Dan Woydziak.
“There’s a lot of them that we could not right off the bat. I couldn’t tell you much about the drug asset seizure fund for the county attorney though,” answered Johnson. “The special alcohol fund is defined by specific statues. It has to go toward prevention of alcohol abuse and parks.”
“The software system you’re currently using is non-functional, is that right?” Wodziak asked County Attorney Darrin Devinney.
“The software we are using right now is functional, but it is dying on the vine,” said Devinney. “We’re moving toward a windows-based operating system anyway. There’s going to have to be a software change of some sort. The question is: do we stay with the same company when I personally haven’t been impressed with their service or do we go out for bids?”
The commissioners continued to search for a more creative solution to fund the software purchase.
“Your concern over the reserve fund is understandable,” said Johnson.
“We can direct staff and tell them to scour these funds to see if there’s any additional funding that can be transferred over to try to maintain the reserve fund,” added Woydziak.
“The sheriff’s office and the Butler County Attorney’s office might have several options,” said Johnson. “There is a mixture of operating funds. The attorney’s office has nine different funds including the conceal carry fund and the diversion fund. The sheriff’s office has the conceal carry fund, the registered offender fund, commissary fund and the CIP had money built into it. Computer services was allocating the money they had in their operating budget as well.”
Commissioner Peggy Palmer was confused on the purpose of various funds.
“What is the diversion fund?” asked Palmer. “Does the diversion fund a portion of county services in lieu of tax dollars?”
“Generally no,” answered Devinney. “A diversion is a program for first time low-level offenders. Things like the first speeding ticket or driving while suspended. Those people can apply for a diversion. They pay for the service of keeping that mistake off their criminal record. If they can complete the terms, there is no criminal prosecution. The fees subsidize our diversion coordinator. Some of the funds go toward the Sheriff’s DARE program as well. I’ve been holding back on these funds in order to keep that diversion fund building. It is much more like a CIP fund that I’ve set aside in the County Attorney’s office for major purchases like this. The diversion fund can be liquidated as long as I have enough to pay my diversion coordinator.”
Palmer then questioned the motivation behind the software change.
“So we’re making this change because we don’t like what we’ve got now, is that correct?” asked Palmer. “This is a big expenditure and I just want to be sure.”
“That actually might be the least important factor,” explained Devinney. “Their service has been less than adequate as far as I’m concerned. I can only speak to you on the prosecutor module. We got the software eight years ago. When we purchased the software, the company was moving toward an integrated system. The company promised us many things with this software including full integration between our different departments. While I believe it might still be possible, it does require an AS400 system. The company itself is not supporting this software anymore. There is one person in Florida who we can call for service with the system and the product is not being updated anymore. It is dying.”
He went on to explain the county does not need a fully integrated system to connect the modules. The fully integrated system, which is what the company is currently offering, is much higher because of the integration and the county has not utilized the feature in the past.
The commission then began to discuss system maintenance and annual fees for the software.
“Right now, we’re paying $55,000 a year for an outdated product,” said Devinney. “The annual maintenance fee for A New Dawn (the new software for the county attorney’s office) is $19,222. The New World software, which will be used in the Sheriff’s Department and County Jail is $40,000.”
“The Reno County Sheriff’s Office uses this new software,” explained Undersheriff Tony Wilhite. “The Hutchinson Police Department also uses it. I’ve had many conversations with department heads and they have told me the customer service for this software is exemplary. In all honesty, with the software we currently use, we were made a number of promises as far as integration and services, but those things have never happened.
“We were once told that the software would enable us to digitally transfer our records to the state, but we haven’t been able to. The problem with putting a person in the middle of this is there is a margin for error. We have to mail our paperwork to the state. I’ve begun to notice, since checking with our crime statistics at the state level, they’re inaccurate. They report that a particular number of crimes have been committed and they’re either way high or way low. We’ve been trying to figure out a way to transmit our data to the state electronically in order to generate more accurate statistics.”
Palmer questioned why the jail and the sheriff’s office would need all the bells and whistles in computer software.
“Why do you need all these sophisticated features?” asked Palmer.
“Statutorily, we can keep our records the same way we do now,” explained Willhite. “But this new software would make it easier and it would allow us to do it digitally instead of having boxes and boxes worth of paperwork. By statute, we are required to keep those records indefinitely.”
He went on to explain in order to gather information on a particular inmate, staff must first access the state database and then continue to search several other areas of the software to gather a complete profile.
“If I want to look up one of our mugshots,” he went on, “I have to rely on someone else to find that mugshot of the individual so that I can give it to investigators. Amazingly enough, if I want to search Sedgwick County’s mugshots, I just have to log into the computer.”
The commission turned their attention once again to funding the new software.
“So you’re looking for this $173,145 and $142,035 to buy this new software. How are you going to pay for that?” asked Palmer.
“We will be able to fund some through the CIP,” said Willhite. “We’ve also looked at other funds to try and cover this.”
“If we’re going to do this, I would like to suggest some modifications here,” said Myers. “I would also like to keep in mind that storage–even digital storage is not free. We should really try allocating these funds so that we can maintain some of these reserves. I really feel the need to be frugal with the detention reserve fund at this time.”
“As this sits right now, I won’t support this,” said Commissioner Jeff Masterson. “I’m not opposed to this at all, but I want to at least get through hearings and see where we’re at.”
Woydziak then moved to direct staff to find funding options using existing county funds and the motion was carried 5-0.
The commission also:
• appointed Tom Gailbraith to fill the open at-large position for the Board of Directors of Flinthills Services, Inc.
• approved allowing the Emergency Communications director to make the payment of $14,500 for CAD software version upgrade.
Kari Adams can be reached at email@example.com.