County seeks grants for security, wayfinding

Improved security and convenience at the Bartholomew County Courthouse are being sought through a new grant opportunity.

The $132,000 Court Reform grant has just been made available to all 92 Indiana counties through the Indiana Office of Court Services, county grant administrator Bobbie Shake said.

If the money is approved, a court wayfinding kiosk system will be installed on each of the three floors, Shake said. Three kiosks will display every court’s daily docket, as well as guiding the public to the right courtroom, she said.

One advantage the calendar kiosks provide is freeing up court staff from being distracted from their work to answer the questions from the public about locations of courtrooms or times on hearings, Shake said.

There would also be a fourth kiosk exclusively for participants and litigants, she said. This device will allow them to let the court know they have arrived, make address changes, update their attorney status, and advise whether they will need a court interpreter, Shake said.

Although all three of the Bartholomew County commissioners gave approval to apply for the grant, a few questions about the kiosks were raised.

“I think that technology will have a pretty short lifespan,” Commissioner Tony London said. “A system along those lines is coming soon that will alert people of their case status on their phones.”

London also expressed concern that kiosks might require a large amount of work from an already busy Information Technology department.

In addition, Bartholomew County Attorney Grant Tucker says the public already has an online means of keeping track of court updates through the website.

But three of the judges in Columbus, as well as Bartholomew County Jail Commander Maj. John Martoccia, have given their blessings to the proposed kiosk system, Shake told the commissioners.

In addition, some funds from the grant will be spent on upgrading existing security equipment, Shake said.

“If we find something that is a little bit better (than the kiosks), we can always modify the grant and ask for an amendment to use the money for other purposes,” Shake said.

The deadline to apply for the grant is Nov. 25, she said.

In a separate grant opportunity, the commissioners gave Shake approval to seek an $11,500 grant through the Indiana Office of Court Services that will allow all three courts to hire certified interpreters.

Interpreters are available for a wide range of people in Indiana, including those who speak limited or no English and those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. According to the latest census data, this is about 200,000 Hoosiers.

Currently, Indiana has more than 160 certified interpreters in more than 10 languages including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and American Sign Language.

Becoming a certified interpreter requires several days of taking oral and written exams, as well as attending workshops. For that reason, they are paid more than non-certified interpreters. The $11,500 grant is intended to fill that pay gap, Shake said.

The deadline for the interpreter grant to be submitted is Nov. 30.