By Alex Bridges
New software doesn't come cheap, as some Warren County agencies have learned in recent months.
Now the Sheriff's Office plans to upgrade the system that covers computer-aided dispatching, records management and mobile software as well as related hardware. The Board of Supervisors earlier this week heard from Sheriff Daniel McEathron about his office's need to buy new software at a cost of $309,270.
The board approved a motion to allow the purchase of the new software. But the question of how the county and the Sheriff's Office would pay for the software and related equipment remained uncertain. Initially, the motion called for the county to use $125,000 from the Emergency 911 fund and to cover the remainder of the cost with money from the general fund in the current fiscal budget, or to use a financing option such as a loan.
McEathron explained that another company bought out the office's software provider nearly 10 years ago.
"So we really haven't been satisfied with the services or what they've been able to offer for many years," McEathron told the board.
His office has, for the past three years, looked at software packages from other vendors but kept in mind that a new, regional jail would open in 2014. McEathron said he did not want to ask for the funds to buy new software three years ago because the opening of the jail would require his office to spend more money to upgrade his system anyway.
The new software represents an upgrade to the office systems. McEathron pointed out the current software is almost 10 years old.
"It gives me the opportunity to have my deputies out in the field longer, which the original system was implemented to do but never did accomplish," McEathron said.
The new software would let deputies prepare their reports, research warrants and cases from computer terminals in their vehicles, McEathron said. The sheriff explained the software also would improve the information that goes through the dispatch center and sent to law enforcement and emergency responders.
"With the current one we're not able to do a lot things that are analytical, and our need has been growing over the years," McEathron said.
Vendors gave presentations to staff over the past few months. McEathron said the package offered by Southern Software came in at approximately $200,000 less than the next cheapest option.
"I don't believe in getting all the bells and whistles if you don't plan on using all the bells and whistles," McEathron said. "This system is very user-friendly. It's something that the information is at your fingertips."
McEathron said he and County Administrator Douglas Stanley worked together over the past week to find ways to fund the software purchase.
McEathron said there are funds allocated in his budget for computers and equipment that he feels his office would not need this fiscal year. The Emergency 911 fund also has money his office could use, McEathron said. But the sheriff noted that even with the available funds he's identified, his office would be short approximately $100,000.
Stanley suggested that the county loan itself the money to cover the remainder of the cost for the software, then pay it back over the next few years in subsequent budgets.
In response to a question by Supervisor Daniel Murray Jr., McEathron said whatever software system the regional jail uses must be compatible with packages used by the sheriff's offices in the three participating counties. By the county buying software ahead of the jail's opening, the jail can work with the vendor to find a compatible system, McEathron said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org