Superior court requests funds for office

Computers and printers are outdated, desks are warped from flooding, more working space and equipment are needed and security needs upgrading.

Jackson Superior Court I Judge Bruce Markel recently presented these issues to the three Jackson County commissioners in hopes of gaining approval and funds to make it all happen.

Markel said he doesn’t expect it all to be resolved at once. He just wants to get money budgeted in the bond issue to start on at least part of the wish list in 2016.

County Auditor Kathy Hohenstreiter said once the budget is approved Oct. 21, she will send out an email to all county departments with information about when they can share their wish lists with three county council members and a representative from Reedy Financial Group.

“At that time, you’re going to know your numbers, how much it’s going to cost and that kind of thing,” Hohenstreiter said. “Then at that point, they will take everything that has been asked for and actually disperse who’s going to get what because it depends on what amount that they are going to set the bond at.”

Once it’s determined how much Markel will have to spend, Hohenstreiter said he would present what he plans to purchase to the commissioners for their approval. She expects the money to be available at the beginning of 2016.

Markel said the court reporters’ desks in the Seymour court have been through two floods, so drawers are warped and won’t stay closed, and the feet are coming off. The desks also aren’t big enough to fit all of the necessary equipment, including a computer and keyboard, a scanner, a printer and a label scanner and printer.

Plus, the computers and printers have become obsolete, and more printers are needed, Markel said.

Of all of the equipment needed, he estimates the cost to be about $18,000.

In regards to court security, Markel said he recently received a survey and an assessment from the State Court Administration.

In the area where the deputy clerks and court reporters sit, a locked door and a Plexiglas window need to be added for their protection. Markel said that will need to be designed by someone who can ensure it doesn’t violate state fire and public building codes.

He estimates the cost to be about $10,000.

Also, Markel said he anticipates electronic filing of court cases to begin in the county within two years, so kiosks will have to be placed in the court buildings in Brownstown and Seymour for the public to use. He said at this time, only one county in the state has that up and running.

Each kiosk will have a computer and a scanner. Markel said he doesn’t know the cost of that project.

“I don’t know whether the state is going to help us with the cost of those computers or whether that’s going to be something that has to be paid for by the county,” he said.

With potentially more people coming into the courthouses to use the kiosks, Markel said that will require more security.

“In my humble opinion, it’s going to be even more imperative that we have security at those counters with the people wandering in and out filing stuff,” he said.

Markel said some sort of security on the kiosks also may be needed in the event someone decides to vandalize the equipment.

“The equipment is going to be very expensive, and to think that somebody wouldn’t come in there and be angry and trash a computer or scanner would be really foolish,” he said.

Markel said he has heard about some “really disturbing” incidents in surrounding counties where people have caused disturbances at a courthouse or a police station. There also have been fights between people in the parking lot at the Seymour courthouse, and he said security cameras need to be placed outside, too.

“I think it’s time that we think about the reality of the situation,” he said.

In every court building, Markel said three paths are emphasized — one for employees, one for the public and one for defendants being brought from jail.

“And they should never cross,” he said.

County officials have been talking about constructing a new court building in Brownstown, but Markel said he understands a court building will remain in Seymour.

He told the commissioners he and the county’s other two judges, Bruce MacTavish and Richard Poynter, would like to look at the plans for the court building and also have input from the State Court Administration and its security personnel.

“On the thought that this is going to remain a court building, I think it’s time to take some major steps for the safety of staff in there,” he said. “It’s time that I think we give some protection to the court.”