Years Past Original Deadline and Millions of Dollars Over Budget, Dallas County Hits Pause on Courts Software

Dallas County in 2012 embarked on a new venture: development of a case-tracking software that could be used in any Texas criminal court — and could be sold to other counties.To split the $16.7 million bill, the county partnered with Tarrant and Travis counties.The system was supposed to go live by 2015. But the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, or CUC — the nonprofit at the helm of the project — missed that deadline after its software developer left the business. Then came another missed deadline. And another.Now — after more than six years of extensions, objections from judges and at least $26 million of taxpayer money — Dallas County is suspending payments toward the still-unfinished courthouse program.The “pause,” as officials have called it, is supposed to last until September. If CUC hasn’t launched the software in Tarrant County by then, some Dallas County commissioners have threatened a vote to pull the plug for good.“Every single deadline has been missed, and if that doesn’t give you any pause — it’s been giving me pause for seven years,” said Commissioner Elba Garcia.CUC says the county’s requests for customization are partly to blame for the delays. But another missed deadline might spur Dallas County to end the years-long saga marked by a corporate bankruptcy, arguments on the commissioners’ dais and a plea from criminal court judges to ditch the program.The future is still uncertain. On Tuesday, the Commissioners Court was scheduled to vote on a $495,000 contract to hire a consultant who would help officials determine the “viability” of completing the software. The decision was postponed at the request of county staff.Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the agreement with CUC to pause payments doesn’t preclude the county from considering other options before September.Tarrant County officials are more optimistic about the program’s future — the administrator there said last week he’s confident the software will be in place by the fall.Jenkins said he hopes for a similar happy ending for Dallas County.“Nobody wants this to work more than I do,” Jenkins said. “Nobody wants me to be wrong more than I do because we’ve sunk a lot of money in this.”  Continue reading...

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