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Kane County officials mull electrical service upgrade for courtrooms

GENEVA – The various offices that support Kane County’s court system may soon begin looking at upgrading their electrical service in order to support upgrading the county’s court-related computer systems.

That could, in turn, potentially add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of designing and installing a new electronic court document system.

A Kane County task force has sought for years to advance a project to create the new court document system, which officials have said is needed to bring the court system up to date and allow for more efficient operations.

Called the Kane County Judicial and Public Safety Technology Task Force, the panel includes representatives of the county’s judiciary, the Kane County Board, Sheriff Pat Perez, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell, Public Defender Kelli Childress, lawyers practicing within the county and others.

A consultant hired by the county has solicited proposals from software vendors to design and install the system. Those are expected to be received for review in August.

However, in the meantime, some on the task force have raised concerns over the ability of the county’s courthouses to adequately power any new system.

Kane County’s Chief Judge Judith Brawka on Thursday expressed her worries to the task force.

“If we have this wonderful thing, and we can’t plug it in and power it, what have we done?” Brawka said.

Roger Fahnestock, the county’s chief information officer, said the county’s courthouses currently have enough power to meet existing information technology needs.

But he said Brawka’s concerns were not unwarranted.

Fahnestock also noted that, while the courthouses have backup generator power, courtrooms would shut down in the event of a power loss.

Upgrading electrical services in the county’s courtrooms could be costly.

Fahenstock noted that, when the county sought to retrofit an existing courtroom recently for new use, the estimate to fully upgrade the room was $35,000. 

County officials noted, however, the price tag would likely be lower as the work would not necessarily be that extensive, and that the price per courtroom would likely be lower, because the county would seek to upgrade all its courtrooms at the same time.

Task force members, including Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, said the matter was worth discussing. 

“We should start to plan on the expense of this,” Lauzen said.

Fahenstock suggested hiring an architect early next year to plan the electrical service improvements after the county determines the computer system it will choose.

Task force members indicated they could revive discussion on the courthouse’s electrical service this fall. 

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