The county is also experiencing a continued implementation delay that is set to last about six months as it monitors how the software it has already paid $7 million to develop works in neighboring Tarrant County.
(TNS) — Dallas County, Texas, will continue its pause on new software to help manage the jail — a move that could ultimately cost taxpayers millions of dollars more than originally planned.
The continued delay, set to last about six months, allows the county to monitor how the software Dallas County has already paid $7 million to develop works in neighboring Tarrant County, which has paid about $5 million for the software.
At the same time, commissioners instructed county staff at a meeting Tuesday to develop a backup plan to find a third-party vendor in case the software or the organization developing the program flops.
The court’s direction to hold off echoes a decision made earlier this year to stop paying for the development of a similar program meant to help manage court cases. And it’s the latest evidence the Dallas commissioners have grown tired of dumping money into TechShare, the multi-county initiative by the Council of Urban Counties to develop criminal justice software.
"I’m in a place of risk mitigation,” said Commissioner J.J. Koch, a Republican who represents northern Dallas County and who has been the chief critic of TechShare. “We can’t afford to not play this safe.”
Koch first sounded the alarm about the jail software in November. At the time, he suggested the county could repeat the $30 million mistake it made investing in the TechShare court software program, which was never implemented.
On Tuesday, he raised additional concerns over the long-term solvency of TechShare, which is supposed to be spun off from the Council of Urban Counties into its own entity.
But Commissioner Theresa Daniel, a Democrat who represents eastern Dallas County and sits on the TechShare board, has defended the organization’s work, pointing to other programs it developed already being used in Dallas County.
"My goal is to provide a system that works for the jail,” Daniel said.
And on Tuesday, the court heard from its staff that TechShare has completed its work developing the jail software successfully.
“I don’t think the technology is a risk,” said Craig Morrissey, who has led Dallas County’s work on TechShare software. “I think the software is strong and stable.”
Morrissey pitched a $250,000 test by Microsoft to validate that the TechShare jail software would work for Dallas County. Commissioners nixed that idea for the time being. The governing body did, however, signal it would approve a limited amount of money for the county to hire individuals to help solicit bids from contractors to supply new software for the jail.
Going with a new vendor will cost the county more time and money, Morrissey said. He estimated abandoning the TechShare software would delay getting new software to the jail by three and a half years and cost nearly $11 million.
Meanwhile, putting the TechShare software into place at the jail would take up to two years and cost about $5 million. The project is currently running under budget, according to county staff.
Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, who has indicated support for TechShare in the past, said in a statement Tuesday that the commissioners’ decision will have no impact on jail operations in the short-term.
“While the Dallas County Commissioners work to ensure we have the latest technology for inmates, business will run as usual,” the statement said.
©2019 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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