New software system, TnCIS, debuts in Blount County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A new era of technology was introduced in the Blount County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office Wednesday, as it reopened to the public with a new software system.
TnCIS (The Tennessee Court Information System) provides clerks with an automated case management system that reduces paperwork, processes fee collections and improves record keeping and timeliness of case management, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Circuit, General Sessions and Traffic Court Clerks’ Offices were closed earlier this week while the new software was being installed. Earlier this year, the Blount County Commission voted to allow the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to spend more than $70,000 from its reserve funds for new court software, equipment and training.
The new system also features new scanners, where documents will be scanned for easier and quicker access.
The total cost of the project was $118,000, with installation, training and future support costing $79,000; scanners and server hardware, $25,000, and scanner software, $14,000.
Local agencies such as the Alcoa and Maryville Police Departments, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney General’s Office and the state and county probation departments will be linked to the new system.
Collection agencies, the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office accounting department and media will also have access to the system.
Three computers are set up in a room for public access upon entering the Blount County Justice Center. Users will only be able to inquire about their specific needs, and not for any other reason.
“We started looking at a new system about three years ago,” said Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher during an interview in his office. “We decided on this system and once we got into it, it wasn’t what we needed. It wasn’t a step up — it was actually something basically parallel to what we had. We had to regroup and start looking again.
“You have everyone and their brother coming in here from Georgia, Texas and different places wanting to get into the Tennessee courts,” Hatcher continued. “There’s so much difference in how Tennessee does the judicial system with other states. Our IT guy has been a big help in trying to convert back from our old software system to this one. It’s taken several months because of the mass majority of cases out there that we handle.”
Hatcher said clerks have been training since August to get familiar with the system.
“It has been a tremendous undertaking for everyone,” he said. “Friday we were here until between 9:30 and 10 p.m. working, and then (Tuesday), it was nearly 11 p.m. before we left last night to make sure we were going to be ready to open to the public this morning.
“This is a more user-friendly system than we had before under the old system,” Hatcher continued. “You would pull a name up in this screen, and if you had to do something else, you had to go to that screen and go to another. You had six different screens you had to go in and out of — to actually enter a case and put in the disposition and everything.
“With TnCIS, it’s a lot simpler, and hopefully once everyone gets familiar with the system, it will help us on productivity with the amount of cases we handle now.
“We’re a couple of employees short of where we want to be. Because of the times and budget problems we’ve had, we hope this will keep us from having to hire anybody new in the next year or so. This is one of things we looked at that can save time and can save money for the county.”
Hatcher said he felt like the office was prepared when doors opened Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t easy.
“Being closed Friday and all day (Tuesday), we were bombarded this morning,” Hatcher said. “People were coming in wanting to make payments and wanting to know when cases are. There was a tremendous amount of traffic. It was chaotic with them trying to learn the system and hit right buttons or hit the wrong button and panic, because they want to take care of the customer in a timely manner.
“It will take a few weeks to get familiar with correct buttons to hit and find information,” Hatcher continued. “It was the same thing when we went on the computer system for the first time in 1998 — get familiar with it and back to business as usual. Attorneys can get into system from their office and can print from the screen. Collection agencies and media can hook up to us. It’s a system that’s based to make the judicial system easier for those to use on a daily basis.”