Pulaski County Council Working to Budget Technology Costs, Following IT Department’s Elimination

After the Pulaski County Commissioners disbanded the county’s IT Department, the county council continues trying to figure out how to cover technology costs going forward.

During this week’s budget discussions, Council Member Kathi Thompson said she’s come up with a figure of $510,000 that was budgeted for IT, which will have to be incorporated into departments’ budgets.

Circuit Court Judge Mary Welker told the council that the contract for the court reporting system is already in Circuit Court’s budget, but she doesn’t have all the details about printer maintenance contracts. Similarly, Chief Probation Officer Chris Allen said her department is already covering the cost of its case management software, but money won’t be needed after the county switches to the Odyssey court software next June.

Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker Kocher said the state will cover the cost of having someone on-site for two weeks to help with the court software transition. However, Judge Welker felt the county may need extra help from someone who knows how all of its systems work.

But there are also questions about the progress of some IT upgrades that were underway when the department was disbanded. Council Member Brian Young noted that cybersecurity upgrades were planned, but Judge Welker said that as far as she knew, they had not yet been implemented.

Similarly, the county commissioners approved a switch in email systems a few months ago, but Welker said she’s still having problems. “If I take the Surface or even my own personal laptop, I can sign into LightStream through their website, but I can’t send an email unless I’m hooked up to this server here,” she explained, “which is a real problem because we go to conferences and I can’t send an email. I have to do things with photos on my personal phones.”

Monday’s meeting was one of a series of budget discussions taking place between council members and department heads. The council is trying to avoid a $2.7 million deficit that’s projected to develop over the coming years.