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Posted: April 10, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Grant to help teach troubled students

Planning dept. to save money with new software

The Newton County Juvenile Court received approval from the Board of Commissioners to apply for a grant to fund a day-time educational program to watch over, teach and help reform suspended students.

The juvenile court is applying for a $75,000 Juvenile Accountability Block Grant from the Governor’s Office and will know whether it received the grant in June, Associate Judge Lisa Mantz said.

The grant money would be used to set up a Center for Learning Alternatives for Suspended Students (CLASS). This daytime program will be a complement to the existing Evening Reporting Center which helps kids who are in after-school detention programs.

The program is designed to take suspended and expelled children off of the streets and put them back into a positive, educational setting. She said this program would be unique if created and would continue the department’s efforts "to be progressive and innovative." She said she hoped the juvenile court’s previous success in getting grants would bode well for this program.

In other BOC news:

The Newton County Planning and Development department is purchasing new software to improve internal efficiency, save money and make the permitting process more convenient for the public. County Senior Planner Scott Sirotkin said his department and the public have been asking for these changes for a while.

"It should enable us to provide for more efficient customer service during permitting, plan review, etc.," Sirotkin said in an e-mail. "And once the public portal is set up, folks will be able to view the status of existing permits online."

Because of the numerous benefits, on Tuesday the Board of Commissioners approved the planning department’s request to purchase the right to use new software system for five years. The planning department will switch vendors from Accela to CSI and will save at least $480,000 over the five years.

The current Accela software has not been meeting the planning department’s needs for the past six years and the cost to fix the problems would be $1.3 million, Sirotkin said. The department chose CSI’s "Magnet" program, because it filled all of the department’s needs and only cost $271,650 over the five years, he said. That price includes the cost of purchasing two servers, which will allow the department to back up its own information, whereas before Accela stored the information.

"The software will be used to track all applications, permits, cases, etc., that our department processes. This will include zoning, plan review, development, building, code enforcement, business licenses, etc.," Sirotkin said.

However, the software system won’t be operational until after June 30, the date when the current contract with Accela ends. This means the planning department will be without software for a short period of time. Sirotkin said the department would be able to function without the software for a limited time, but he stressed that a new system needed to be purchased now to avoid significant problems down the line.

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