A new office recently opened at the Blount County Justice Center with the goal of giving the public more convenient access to filings from General Sessions and Circuit courts.
Blount County Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher said the new public technology information center is located in the former magistrates office at the entrance hallway of the Blount County Justice Center.
It is served by two computer systems with a direct connection to the computer system in the clerk’s office where people often come in to ask for assistance with filings.
“It’s open if anybody wants to look up a case. It’s available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” he said. “We get calls all the time for different people who need access and want us to look things up. With attorney’s offices, we get bombarded with requests. We’ve hooked this system up so people could come here and look things up. We can answer questions if needed.”
Hatcher said another feature the office is making available to different businesses or attorneys is a system they can hook into their computer system by modem. The start-up cost is $120. “They can link to us and work from their office without taking time away from their office. They’ve got all their paper work at hand and they can just log on,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher said the system will only let the public inquire. “There’s a safeguard to make sure no records can be changed,” he said.
The circuit court clerk said the move was made because of the volume of work the office sees and the number of people who call for information. “It takes a lot of time for clerks to stop and do these things. Of course, that’s part of the service we provide, but we think this is a great way for people to be able to link to our office and look things up for themselves,” Hatcher said.
The clerk said the money used to put this system on board is from a $2 fee the office collects on reset cases. “That money is designated by the state for nothing but technology equipment for the clerk’s office. It’s designated funds and that money can’t be spent for anything else,” Hatcher said.
The clerk said this is another way the people who use the court system help underwrite the costs of operating the office. “We’re able to collect fees instead of having to go to the commission and ask for tax dollars,” he said.
While there are two computers in the office currently, plans call for a third one in the near future. “We’re also working with the sheriff office technology people to have a link in there by Internet so that people can come in and look up everybody who has been arrested,” he said. “We haven’t got that up and running at this point but that’s something that is coming.”
Hatcher said that for members of the public to gain access to the new center, they must get a key from the Circuit Court Clerk’s office. Records clerk Donna Martin would sign a key out and anyone using one of the keys would be required to return it after completing their sessions. Video surveillance would record activities in the technology center and traffic in and out of the facility for security purposes.