Fed up. That was the sentiment of commissioners and most of the county offices that utilize the NetData case management software in the county.
“Since I’ve been serving the county for the last four years, over the last two years, I’ve seen firsthand the glaring deficiencies of NetData, and every year that passes, technology leaves us behind,” said Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston.
Poston invited Tyler Technologies to address the commissioners and interested parties from around the county to view their product and take it into consideration for meeting the growing needs of the county, both now and in the future.
“They work very closely with OCA (Office of Court Administration) to provide the backbone for e-filing and they have a full complement of courthouse software from attorneys, to jail, to clerks and more,” he said.
Neighboring Chambers County has recently purchased the software.
Stephen Stehling from Tyler Technologies presented the judicial software and gave his pitch on why the county should invest in judicial software.
Stehling focused on the county attorney, district attorney, district clerk and county clerk’s offices and the integrated software they need to manage the records they produce daily.
The software touted by Tyler would automate staff workloads by using technology to gain staff and court efficiency while increasing citizen access to justice.
“Shrinking budgets mean you have to leverage technology to your advantage,” he said.
Stehling also said it would give the public a self-service component and reduce the number of calls allowing clerks to focus on other necessary work.
Another feature of the contract is Tyler will not increase the cost of future data storage and server needs as volumes increase.
“We will continuously enhance products to meet the county’s needs,” he said.
If the county utilizes Tyler, they would also be able to use their servers, which are housed in the old federal bank in Dallas and have fingerprint entry and armed guards, much more secure than a local building.
“If your data storage increases, we don’t increase your cost,” Stehling said. “That’s important especially if you’re storing body camera footage and need ever-increasing space,” he said.
The Tyler Courts and Justice Division alone does $130 million in revenue and has over 30 years of expertise in Texas.
“We started in Texas and we continue to grow throughout the nation,” he said.
Tyler has 80 counties under their belt which equal out to almost 70 percent of the population of the state that use the Tyler Technologies. They are also in 21 states and over 600 counties. Stehling said the headquarters is located in Plano and boasts more than 530 employees.
The good news for both the district and county clerks is that the software is CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Systems) and OCA (Office of Court Administration) compliant and can make sending those reports much less complicated.
“Our conversion tools will make using the software much easier,” he said. “We try to flush out every possible issue before going live.”
With that, Tyler goes through several procedural methods such as establishing a scope of the project by doing a review, then going through preparation which includes training, configuring, conversion and testing, and a training plan customized to the existing users, a readiness assessment and go-live plan, all leading to the handoff meeting and follow-up training to assist users.
Stehling estimated a $25K price tag per year user fee for each office: county clerk, district clerk, county attorney and district attorney.
That doesn’t include the one-time fee of $550,000 for conversion, training and setup of the software system. He also included a $55,000 fee for travel and expenses (hotels, rentals, etc.) while their staff was here to train county employees.
Stehling estimates if they added in the jail and Justice of the Peace courts, it would cost the county close to $1.2 million.
County Judge Jay Knight wanted to know a timeline for getting the job done if they were to start tomorrow.
“It would take us between 14-16 months for those four offices alone,” Stehling said.
For almost an hour, each of the department heads or representatives quizzed Stehling on various components in the system to determine their own needs and how they would be met.
As is the case with most purchases by the county, the financing of the purchase was key.
“David, this looks like something for you to look into,” Knight said to new County Grant Director David Douglas.
Knight also said there are other options for financing long-term, but the most important issue was for the NetData software to go away.
“You know how I feel. I wanted to fire NetData a year ago,” Knight told District Clerk Donna Brown.
Brown said she didn’t need another headache.
“If we’re going to do this, I just don’t trust NetData to get this done. They’ve been telling us for the last two years that this was going to happen, but it hasn’t,” she said.
Another issue prompting the county to move quickly is their servers are currently at 73 percent capacity. IT personnel can update hard drives and buy some time, but it would need to be done within the next couple of years and it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money if the county goes to a different system.
Commissioners could see it on the agenda in the next few weeks, but they plan to explore their financing packages first.