County to receive Tech Grant

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

The Henry County Board had a lot to take in Thursday evening, February 18, during the regular meeting.  

A presentation was made to the Board regarding a Judicial Tech Grant that is being implemented in the Courthouse Complex by Rosemary Rathjen, Director of Information Services. The grant, in the amount of $332,727 will cover the costs of upgrading technology materials throughout the courtrooms, as well as standardizing the communications system, complex wide. Rathjen referred to the grant as "a Godsend".

Courtrooms will be receiving larger audio-visual screens, and the courtrooms will be further connected to accommodate remote appearances of witnesses, expert witnesses, inmates at the jail, and social distancing of juries. The same testimony can be heard by jurors in multiple courtrooms.  Plexiglass dividers have been installed in jury boxes.

Bench trials and many traffic court appearances can be made via teleconference, eliminating the need for personal appearances, and moving along the backlog of cases still in the system. 

A Voice Over Internet Phone (VOIP) system will be installed throughout the complex, with new hardware for the all the offices, and an increased number of phone lines. An increase in bandwith for the Courthouse will also be part of the upgrades, up to possibly 700 Mg. In order for the grant to pay for the enhancements, the installation must be done by June 30. 

States Attorney Cathy Runty also stated that new models for Hybrid Court are being drawn up. The new technology will change the way cases are heard. March 1 jury trails can begin, after nearly a year long hiatus. 

Runty also did a presentation regarding historical and current information on caseloads, types of cases, backlog of cases and financial impact for the States Attorney's office.  

With the lack of hearings in 2020, due to Covid, Court proceedings were placed on hold, and continued to stack up. Most alarmingly, abuse and neglect cases are trending off the charts.  In the last 6 months, eight drug traffickers have been apprehended on the interstate, and the backlog of evidence at the crime lab in Springfield compounds the problem. 

In other business, a special use permit was granted for a kennel and grooming facility near Lynn Center, and a change of zoning for a property that had been previously a golf course near Orion to become a Retreat Center for First Responders.

A reimbursement for $7725 in missing jewelry was authorized for the family of a Hillcrest resident.  New procedures will be implemented regarding inventory of personal property.  At this time, there are 54 residents, and family visits have returned, with masks and social distancing. They are open for new residents. CNAs are in short supply, and $40,440 was spent in January to staff the Home with outside agency help. 

Public Safety reported that 8116 shots of Covid vaccine were given.  The first doses were in excess of 6200, with almost 1900 of second doses given. Getting vaccine has been difficult.  The clinics at Black Hawk East have been impressive with the efficiency with which they have been conducted. 

The Board recessed into Executive session to discuss the Collective Bargaining Agreement between Hillcrest Home and AFSCME. 

Henry County Courthouse