The Wharton County Commissioners Court recently approved unanimously to have upgrades done to the Precinct 2 Justice Building in East Bernard. This stems from “continuous internet issues” that have occurred there.
County Judge Phillip Spenrath said the county’s IT Department, led by Darlene Munoz, has continued to work with internet providers. Spenrath said this finally appears to be resolved.
Recently installation equipment that was installed has been checked and done correctly, Munoz reported to the county. The ultimate issue is the need for faster internet to the current 20 up/10 down format.
“Darlene spoke to a company providing internet to the East Bernard Library and they do provide the needed fix of 50 up/50 down,” Spenrath said.
The upgrades are to replace a transmitter atop the existing East Bernard transmission tower at a cost of $500. The other is the monthly service fee that would increase to $200 for faster internet service.
“That’s a significant increase, but the East Bernard Justice Building can’t open all the e-filing to the documents,” Spenrath said.
Justice of the Peace for Precinct 2, Glenn Russell, was in on the meeting, and not surprisingly was pleased with the decision.
“We are a wasteland,” Russell said. “This has been going on for six months.
After the meeting, Russell said the new upgrade to the system is called ICON and is a Justice of the Peace Case Management System. He said it has advanced filing, tracking, and reporting features. It creates and manages time payment schedules, adds warrants and automatically creates corresponding Violate Written Promise to Appear or FTA cases with all necessary fees added, and includes all necessary reports for internal county and state auditing.
It has been a difficult process not having the capabilities like the other Justice of the Peace building across the county. His was the only one with this much connection trouble.
“The old system, which we are still operating on, is no longer supported by updates, etc. We are the last county in the state that is still operating on the old system,” Russell said.
He added that costs have been changed by the Texas Legislature, and increased on Jan. 1 and will again change on Sept. 1.
“These changes require court personnel to manually enter costs, etc. on each case,” he said.
At the time of the meeting, county leaders were discussing from where to take the funds from.
Several options presented by Spenrath, County Treasurer Donna Thornton, and County Attorney Trey Maffett were the Capital Replacement Fund, Justice Court Technology Fund, and Software Contingency Fund.
The only thing that was certain, Spenrath said, was that the county will now be required to purchase a receiver and pay excess monthly service charges for the remainder of 2020. At budget time later in the summer, Wharton County Commissioners Court would revisit the issue and coordinate how to allocate funding within a budget.
Russell said ICON is fully integrated with a collection agency, and GHS, which automatically documents and pursues delinquent case collection processes: sending notices, phone calls, and processes the payment program.