Two Defiance County courts were among more than 140 throughout Ohio receiving technology grants from the Ohio Supreme Court for security upgrades.
Defiance Municipal Court received $18,220 while Defiance County’s common pleas and juvenile courts were granted $15,340. These courts have received technology grants in the past.
According to Defiance Municipal Court Judge John Rohrs III, the funds will be used to upgrade security cameras all around the court building, located at the corner of Defiance’s Perry and Thurston streets.
“We’re real happy to have been notified of that (grant receipt),” he said. “It will be a great help to keeping the court up to date.”
Rohrs said this also will help preserve the court’s special projects fund — derived from a fee attached to cases — that is used to pay debt service on the new court built in 2010.
Municipal court received the same type of grant several years ago, according to Rohrs, but he noted that technology changes quickly and makes some equipment obsolete.
Defiance County’s tech grant will be used to upgrade video equipment in four courtrooms used by the common pleas and juvenile courts as well as the county’s magistrate. They are located on the county courthouse’s two floors in downtown Defiance.
Specifically, this equipment will be used to upgrade cameras and equipment needed to hold remote court hearings (generally from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio or an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction facility) as well as better access through communication options such as Webex or Zoom, according to Defiance County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Schmenk.
“We’re not doing anything dramatically different, but we’re essentially upgrading it,” he explained. “... this is going to allow us to apply the lessons we learned during the pandemic and really make the whole system a lot more efficient.”
He added that this will result in “significant costs savings in terms of transporting people to hearings. We save a lot of money by using this technology.”
While the Defiance courts will receive more than $30,000 between them, this figure is dwarfed by the amount the only other area county receiving grants this year (Williams) will get.
Williams County Common Pleas was granted $121,269.98 to upgrade its case management system while Bryan Municipal Court will receive $43,423 for security-related improvements as well as $9,267.68 for systems and applications.
The above grants are made possible by the Ohio Supreme Court’s “technology initiative” program that began in 2015 with some $2.6 million awarded to courts.
That figure increased significantly from $2.9 million in 2019 to $4.8 million in 2020 and $8.6 million this year, according to the website Court News Ohio.