Courthouse using taxpayer money more efficiently

URBANA -- The Champaign County court system is getting smarter with taxpayer dollars. A new filing process is saving the circuit court thousands of dollars.

"What we were doing before was a less efficient way of doing it," says Circuit Court Clerk Katie Blakeman.

However, the next time you need court documents it may be a little quicker. The documents from the Champaign County Courthouse are created by a system called JANO. However, the Circuit Court Clerk just found a part of Jano called 4G and Katie Blakeman says she simply turned it on.

Wednesday marks 47 days of using it, and it's made life for the employees a lot easier. Shantall Jones has been working here for two years, and her hands are finally getting a break.

"Oh we get paper cuts all the time," says Jones.

She says she gets cut while processing restraining order papers and misdemeanors. Especially since she has to get those documents done quickly.

"I usually have an hour."

Before Jones had to type documents print, stamp them twice, then scan them back into the computer. She was always racing the clock to get done, but not anymore.

"Yesterday I had six of them I had to do and I got them done within a half hour. I'm not wasting anymore time filing, sealing and file stamping."

Now as soon as it is typed, the document gets stamped on the computer. It's a process Blakeman says was free and is paying off.

"It's more efficient and allows us to save time and money as well."

In 47 days the clerk's office has processed nearly 4,000 documents. During that time, 4G has saved 6,000 pieces of paper, 131 hours of work and $2,000 so far.

In a year, this office will have saved more than $30,000. Another expense is file folders. Each year this office spends $50,000 to get them. But eventually, with electronic filing, they'll get rid of them all together. Electronic filing is a process Blakeman says is about a year away.

"I would like to make it as easy as possible for the people to use the court system."

Blakeman has only been in office since December 2012 and she says she doesn't know why it wasn't done sooner. Her office continues to move forward, even applying to get a certification from the Illinois Supreme Court.

That certification would eventually allow people to do things like get electronic traffic tickets, enter a guilty plea and then pay court costs online. Blakeman says the goal of this new system is not to eliminate jobs, but in the long-term it's possible overall staff size could be reduced through natural attrition. However, that's unlikely until after electronic filing is implemented.

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