A combination of five bike racks (each of which can fit up to eight bicycles) and eight bike hitches (each fitting up to two bicycles) have been furnished using Innovation Grant funds. Installation of the bike racks have been performed in-house, by our Trial Court Facilities Management employees. The racks are now being used on the plaza at the Suffolk County High Rise and at the Brooke, with further deployments to come.
Stoughton District Court’s grant, a new “calendaring” electronic bulletin display, shows court users the information they need in seconds. The 55-inch flat screen display greets visitors as they enter the courthouse, displaying the day’s cases, courtrooms, where to make payments, and other information in a crisp, clear, easy-to-read format. “The information fluctuates because different things happen on different days,” explained Linda Siegel, the court’s Head Administrative Assistant. So far, she says the response from the public and attorneys has been overwhelmingly positive.
Ms. Siegel was instrumental in implementing the grant, the brainchild of Assistant Clerk Damon Borelli. “I promised our Judge [First Justice Richard Savignano] I would get the project done before that June 30th [fiscal year] deadline rolled past and we would lose the money,” Ms. Siegel said. True to her word, she scrambled quickly to deal with vendors, the county, and the Trial Court Information Services department to get the system up and running over the summer.
Navigating a project involving “new” technology through the Trial Court’s complex organization can be a challenge. “Everything is a procedure, and everyone has a different idea of how things should go,” said Ms. Siegel. “When it was all done I said: ‘Thank God!’” she laughed. The project took about four months from start to finish, from kickoff in May to the final round of employee training completed in August. “It would be great if other courthouses could adopt this idea,” Ms. Siegel added.
Electronic queuing is another successful tech-savvy Innovation Grant. Implemented in August by the Hampden County Probate & Family Court, the notification software lets clients know when their paperwork is ready via text messaging. The automated list manages new case filings and modifications, and allows people to see their case files and certified copies of documents.
How queuing works. When a court user comes to the counter, court counter staff enter their name, cell phone number, and case number if they have one into the queue. The client receives a welcome text to the Probate & Family Court, and a notice that a second text will follow when it’s their turn. The system also has a “no cell” memo field option, so court employees know who to text and who to call out by name.
Watch live: See how the queuing system works (available during regular courthouse hours).
A web-based vendor provides the software and controls the servers. The Innovation Grant also provided funds for the court to purchase a display monitor in the hallway so people could see their place in line.
So far, reaction to the new system has been favorable. “Both the court staff and public love it,” says Suzanne Seguin, Hampden County Register of Probate. “Some attorneys have complained about waiting in line. But we’re a high-volume court. We serve around 800 people at the counter a week. Now that the line has all case types in it – not just probate and domestic – the wait times are now intermixed.”
While the equipment was in place by June 30, the vendor faced unexpected technical issues, which delayed the go-live date until August 7th. Fortunately, the vendor didn’t start to charge until the system went live. Register Seguin also didn’t anticipate how time-consuming the set-up and testing process would be.
“Tom Pavlu (TCIS for Western Mass.) was great about walking us through the tech bumps in the road,” she recalled. “I went through and created the queues we needed. Then we tested the system with our own cell phones to make sure it worked.”
Register Seguin is convinced that the effort was worth it: “Now that the system’s in place it’s been great.” Overall, she says the queue enables court staff to work more efficiently, and that court users are happier with the faster service. She hopes that the success of the grant will enable other courthouses throughout the state to adopt the same live queuing technology.
Register Seguin’s advice for grant applicants is to be persistent and patient during the entire process. “The process is so new. When the first Innovation Grant survey came out to track the status of our projects, I was very honest about the lack of progress. It was a bit of a wake-up call for all of us. After that, we all came together and things started moving. But you have to keep following up. Don’t assume that because you got a grant things will move along on their own – they won’t unless you nudge them along,” she says.