Weatherford Democrat

Local News

June 25, 2012

New software considered by county; cost unknown

PARKER COUNTY — Parker County commissioners appear poised to vote on a major software purchase that has drawn widespread support from those on the judicial side but met with opposition from the sheriff’s office.  

The court met in special session Wednesday to discuss the county’s response to the aging software — indispensable to county operations — that will begin to lose technical support at the end of next year, according to Information Technology Director Trish Radford, and be phased out completely by 2016.

No vote was taken, but at the meeting’s conclusion Judge Mark Riley asked Radford to meet with county officials and departments in the next 10 days and prepare a formal recommendation to present at a regular meeting.

The Tyler Technologies’ product currently in use, known as Tyler Able Term or Legacy, was purchased in 2002 for $1.2 million, Radford said. It is used by the entire judicial system and by the sheriff’s office, for law enforcement and dispatch.

Tyler’s new product, Odyssey, is being touted by Radford as Legacy’s successor. She told the court there is no competitor that offers all the products and services the county needs.

“It’s time to make a change,” she told the court. “There’s new technology out there. And Odyssey has so many more options than we have ... It’s time for either an RFP (request for proposals) or to move on to Odyssey.”

Radford said county personnel have watched two demos of the product — now in use in Wise County and in the bigger counties of Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin, she said — in the last six years.

She told the court she thinks the software has developed, and the kinks have been worked out of the system.

Radford declined to estimate the software’s cost to the county, when asked, as did Riley. Both said there were too many variables.

District Clerk Sharena Gilliland and County Clerk Jeane Brunson expressed support for the Odyssey purchase.

Gilliland mentioned the compatibility with Microsoft Office products and the ability to scan documents without expensive license fees. She said the system could offer county residents features like online court cost payments.

“It has a lot of options that people expect when utilizing our services,” she said.

Brunson called going out for an RFP “no-win and expensive.”

“I don’t think there’s any other product out there — including NET Data, their main competitor — that can meet our needs,” she said.

She called it a difficult decision to make, but said it should be made by the next budget year to support a smooth transition as the level of support diminishes.

“Everybody I’ve talked to on the judicial side believes Odyssey is the answer,” Riley told the court, “though some have talked to me about other products.”

The sheriff’s office, however, wanted no part of the Tyler product.

“We’re one of the biggest users of Able Term,” Lt. Mark Arnett, of the sheriff’s office, said, “and we’ve had issues for 10 years with things they did not finish, refused to finish or couldn’t finish because of the way the system is built.

“We’re a firm believer that past performance demonstrates future accountability,” he said. “We strongly suggest the court consider going out for RFPs. Our research from other counties and agencies demonstrates that others can provide the software and technology we need to improve.”

Arnett said the software did not offer paperless filing or the ability to store certain types of data. He said the sheriff’s office was interested in a Motorola product and would like to look at other options as well.

“When you talk about the amount of money that we’re fixing to spend on a new system — and you’re basically going to spend it no matter what product you go with — it needs to be something all the employees are comfortable with,” he said.

“With the conversion costs, purchase of software and support, it’s going to be a massive investment.”

Radford said Odyssey had the interface tools to work with other systems,

“When it comes to courts and the justice system program, starting with book-in all the way through the prosecutors’s office, the clerk’s office and everything to the point of disposition, we want the same program,” she said.

“Dispatch can stand alone. That’s not a problem. I just don’t want to see it piecemeal.”

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