County to expand computer access

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

After extensive discussion on Monday morning, the Caldwell County Commissioners voted unanimously to enter a pair of contracts that will improve the County’s technology and services over the next several months.

Representatives from Time Warner Cable and D-Link Network Switch made a second presentation to the Commissioners on Monday, following up on a lengthy presentation early this month regarding the County’s computer service.

According to Brian Beresford with Time Warner Cable, the initial discussion began when County officials and Time Warner representatives realized that Caldwell County was operating without sufficient computer backups, and that backing up county files was taking as long as a week.

Discussions began to expand the County’s current broadband access, and to upgrade networking equipment to accommodate the expansion. The goal, he said, was to decrease the backup time to 12 hours or less, which would allow more timely information to be retained.

The discussions came to a close on Monday when the Commissioners voted to move forward with the broadband expansion, and to upgrade five routers and switches.

The cost of the equipment purchase is estimated to be $50,458 for the equipment, which County Auditor Sonny Rougeou said was available, because the County has exceeded sales tax collection and is “ahead of the curve” on property tax collection for the year.

In other business, the Court opted to enter an agreement with the Regional Capital Public Defender Office (RCPDO), to help provide legal services for indigent defendants charged with capital crimes.

According to District Judge Todd Blomerth, trials for capital murder are rare in Caldwell County, with only one such trial having taken place in recent history, and only two capital cases having been filed. However, capital murder cases are oppressively expensive, and small counties are sometimes at risk of facing bankruptcy or tax increases if they are forced to provide legal service for an indigent defendant charged with a capital crime.

Enter the RCPDO, a grant-funded office which serves several State judicial districts.

Effectively, the agreement with RCPDO will serve as an “insurance policy,” Blomerth explained to the Commissioners. The cost for the program is calculated on a formula based on both population and number of capital cases, and the first year of the six-year program would be free of charge. The following years are estimated to be more costly, with the sixth year of participation costing the County around $24,900.

If no capital cases are filed or tried, Caldwell County would realize no savings. However, defense of a capital case can cost as much as $100,000, and even one such case being tried in Caldwell County through the RCPDO agreement would be a significant savings.

Though the Commissioners voted unanimously to enter the agreement, cases will not be tried under the program until Oct. 1, 2011, at the earliest.

In brief news:

The Court voted to keep an outdoor burning ban in place.

They heard information from the Capital Area Rural Transportation Service regarding routes and services provided by the agency.

The panel heard discussion from County Clerk Carol Holcomb regarding the use of portable scanners in handling county documents, and they considered the possibility of making the minutes and recordings of Caldwell County Commissioners Court meetings available online.

The County paid bills in the amount of $101,948.87, which includes $12,958.84 in indigent legal defense.

The Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference Room of the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St. in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend.

kathibliss@post-register.com

(Additional information courtesy of  Karen McCrary, Luling Newsboy & Signal)

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