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Committee OKs courthouse access upgrades

Committee OKs courthouse access upgrades Committee OKs courthouse access upgrades

New system will allow visitors to get buzzed into courthouse for appointments at county offices

Taylor County is looking to balance access to the courthouse with keeping employees at work and safe.

Just before Thanksgiving, the county’s executive committee ordered the doors closed to county buildings. To access, visitors must call to the office they want to visit or make an appointment. The intent was to reduce the amount of foot traffic through the building and the chance that those infected with COVID-19 could spread the virus to courthouse workers and lead to widespread disruption in service.

Since the order, departments have alternated staffing the front desk to open the doors as visitors have arrived. At last week’s finance committee meeting, committee members looked at options for having an intercom and buzzer system that will allow individual departments to remotely unlock the door for visitors.

According to buildings and grounds supervisor Joe Svejda, over the past few weeks he has been in contact with vendors who the county has worked with in the past for systems with quotes ranging from $5,000 to close to $9,000 for the system. He recommended a system proposed by local vendor Jeff Machon which would include both audio and video as well has providing access for employees through a keypad.

“To let people enter the build I think it would be a good long-term solution,” said county clerk Andria Farrand.

Committee chairman Chuck Zenner said the system would not only benefit the county during COVID-19 but also address ongoing building security concerns.

“I think it is money well spent,” said committee member Scott Mildbrand. However he said any closure is a temporary measure. “I want to open the courthouse up to people as quickly as we can,” he said, giving April as a realistic goal, expressing optimism that the country is “turning the corner” in dealing with COVID-19.

“I don’t want my constituents to think this is permanent,” he said.

While committee member Tim Hansen said he did not share Mildbrand’s optimism in regard to COVID-19, he said he supported the door upgrade as a way to protect the health of employees. “The health of our employees is tantamount now,” he said. He questioned the timeline for getting the equipment installed noting it did more good if it was in place by the end of January versus being done in July.

County finance director Larry Brandl also supported the investment in the access system saying the $6,000 needed could come out of the contingency budget line. Committee members agreed and voted to continue with the project.

In other business, committee members approved extending the service contract with IBM for the county’s AS400 computer for another year at a cost of about $4,300.

The county is in the process of transitioning away from the mainframe computer and going to cloud-based systems with the goal to be completed by the end of the year, however that process has been delayed and is expected to go into the first few months of 2021 as they use the AS400 as a double check on the cloud system as they get going.

The AS400 is primarily used for the payroll and finance functions of the county. Brandl supported the additional contract time offering for the expense to come out of the finance department’s budget for consultant fees.

Information Technology committee chairman Mike Bub said for the price it is worth the protection if something were to happen, but he also cautioned against using it as a crutch to further delay the transition to the new system.

Hansen compared it to having an insurance policy noting its value if something were to go wrong.

Kathy Miller-Temme returns a serve during a heated game of pickleball at the Medford city park last week. Pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. Miller-Temme along with her playing group of Sally Lemke, Marsha Klingbeil, Jayne Haenel and Laura Zuleger took advantage of the mild conditions in the 40s last Wednesday to play outdoors. With weekend snow and temperatures in the single digits this week, last week’s game was likely the last outdoor game of the year.