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Linda Harris
UPGRADES — Steubenville Municipal Court Judge John Mascio, standing, and court administrator Elizabeth Vergitz say upgrades to their court management software should begin by summer. The upgrade, funded with a $95,650 grant from the Supreme Court of Ohio, will take about 13 weeks to implement.

STEUBENVILLE — The Supreme Court of Ohio has awarded Steubenville Municipal Court more than $95,650 to beef up its case management software.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the funds were made available through the Ohio Courts Technology Initiative established to facilitate the exchange of information and warehousing of data by and between Ohio courts and other justice system partners, to deliver technology goods and services to courts, operate the Commission on Technology and the Courts, and to aid in the orderly adoption and comprehensive use of technology in Ohio courts.

Municipal Judge John Mascio said they’ve received three other SCO grants since 2016, but this one is definitely the biggest: He said the previous three SCO grants had provided them with about $18,000 to implement an e-citation system, allowing police officers to submit citations electronically, an e-pay system so offenders can pay fines and costs online, and software updates.

“I figured they’d give us a portion of what we asked for and we’d have to (get the rest) from our computer fund,” he said, admitting he was “surprised” that the software upgrade will be paid for in its entirety with grant money.

“I’m really grateful to the Ohio Supreme Court for funding the projects we propose,” he said. “I think it’s important to recognize that for smaller communities, like Steubenville, it’s very difficult for us financially to come up with the money we need to progress and move the courts forward. Grant money allows us to do all the things courts in big cities are doing, to stay on top of things and make sure we’re running in an efficient manner.”

The upgraded software will provide users with the industry standard of security, stability and scalability, with a host of new features to streamline functionality and improve workflow. It will feature continuous updates and protection from fraud.

Court Administrator Elizabeth Vergitz said the new system will be more intuitive and make more information available to court personnel. They’ll be able to see at a glance what cases are pending, for instance, and when they’re trying to check for registration blocks the new software will alert them to all the subject’s warrants.

“A lot of people who come through here have many cases, and if they want to come in and pay (their fines and costs) now we would have to log into each case separately,” said Vergitz, who wrote the grant application. With the new system, “we can receive a payment of $1,000 and allocate it to all the cases at once, rather than going in to them each individually. It will simplify things at the counter.”

Mascio said the upgrade will allow them to completely refurbish the court’s software.

“The court management system is really the brains of the operation, all the cases are loaded into the system,” he said. “It tracks everything from what cases are pending to (a defendant’s) payment history or prior criminal history. It’s huge.”

Their current software provider, Civica CMI of Inglewood, Ohio, will do the upgrade. Vergitz said she’ll know later this week when they’ll get started, “but it will take 13 weeks, from start to finish” to implement the changes and train the staff.

Because the project is fully funded, Mascio said he’ll be able to use funds they’ve been saving for computer upgrades to address other issues, like upgrading the sound system.

“These grants are big for small communities,” he said. “It’s not just here, the supreme court does them throughout the state of Ohio. They really want to make sure we have the resources we need to run an efficient operation.”

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