The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 16, 2013

County officials examine Internet access problems at courthouse

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Garfield County officials discussed a wireless Internet problem at the courthouse Monday during the regular county commissioners meeting.

The problem arose because landmen examining public records do not have Internet access. Melissa Atkinson, a court reporter for Associate District Judge Tom Newby, said court reporters do not have Internet capability, either, while bailiffs do.

The court system’s Internet is paid from the court fund, which is controlled by Oklahoma Chief Justice Tom Colbert. Colbert denied a request by Court Clerk Margaret Jones for an additional $3,000 to the budget this year to pay for Internet services. No reason was given.

Enid attorney David Trojan was present at Monday’s meeting because he wanted the service available to everyone who uses the courthouse.

“Enid is a regional center, and we need to have those services in our courthouse,” Trojan said.

Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson said the discussion was designed to find a way for people to get Internet service for those people who need it in the courthouse. Patterson has had Internet service in his office for several years, and also has supplied service to county commissioners and the county clerk.

“I also ran a couple of leads down for some of the court clerks in the past,” Patterson said.

Garfield County Sheriff’s Office also has Internet service to the courthouse office and county jail, and County Clerk Kevin Postier recently brought in a portable hotspot for use in his office.

Jones’ letter to the chief justice asked for a way to purchase Internet for everyone in the court system, including court reporters.

Trojan said Internet access should be available for landmen checking oil leases and others who use the courthouse for business purposes. Patterson said the goal is to get Internet into courtrooms and for court reporters.

County Commission Chairman Marc Bolz said the courthouse will run a fiber optic line to the courthouse in January. However, from that point, any office desiring Internet would need to find a way to pay for it, Patterson said.

“Court reporters need Internet access. We use the medical dictionary for spelling or Google a subject,” Atkinson said. “We have contact by other courts who send email about what’s going on and we don’t have email.”

She said Kelley Dotson, court reporter for Special District Judge Norman Grey, does not have Internet access and other reporters are “iffy.”

Atkinson formerly worked for Judge Richard Perry and now is in a different office. The office she works in now is a former bailiff’s office and all bailiffs have Internet. The old bailiff offices were supplied with state computers and Internet using Jones’ line.

A hardwire line was available through Patterson’s office, but that line is no longer available. Patterson said Monday morning he did not terminate the service. However, he said his office has slow service because of all of the additional lines connected to it.

“The question is who will pay for Internet to go through individual offices?” Atkinson said.

If the court reporters have access to Internet service, Atkinson indicated they will set up their own firewall system to protect their files.

“Hopefully, it will work in the basement,” Atkinson said.

“Wade stepped up to the plate when Sharon wouldn’t do it,” Atkinson said. She referred to former court clerk Sharon Melrose. “People assume we’re on the Internet, but that’s not so.”

Jones said the procedure for her office when additional money is needed that exceeds the budget is to send a letter to the administrative officer of the court and the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court considers the request.

No solutions were reached Monday, but commissioners agreed to have a local computer company look at the courthouse and give them an idea how much it will cost to install Internet in county offices.