Bill would add technology fee to court costs

Published 3:04 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A new bill being proposed in the Alabama Legislature would add a $10 technology fee to court costs in Chilton County.

The fee is needed to help offset rising technology costs, according to those in the law enforcement community.

Clanton Sgt. Neil Fetner said the state has started requiring electronic filing for tickets and other reports but hasn’t provided departments with more money to pay for the equipment needed to do so.

“Over the years, the state of Alabama has started to enforce mandatory reporting requirements on law enforcement agencies across the state,” Fetner said. “We’ve had to put in a lot of information technology.”

Fetner said Clanton was able to use grants to pay for installing new computers and software, but “unfortunately, there’s no money in the grants to sustain that project from that point forward.” Once up and running, computers have maintenance contracts, need software and hardware upgrades and will have to be eventually replaced, Fetner said.

“This fund will actually help offset these costs to the cities,” Fetner said.

If passed, the bill would add the charge to all criminal and traffic cases in Chilton County where the defendant is found guilty.

The county district attorney’s office would administer the money collected from the different courts. Each November, the money would be distributed to each law enforcement agency in the county based on the number of full-time officers in a particular department. The district attorney’s office would also keep 10 percent of revenues to offset administrative costs.

If in place last year, the fee would have generated roughly $90,000, Fetner estimated.

The bill is worded so that money collected can only be used for “legitimate law enforcement technology or communication purposes.” Funds can’t be used to pay salaries or employee benefits, Fetner said.

Local Rep. Kurt Wallace and Sen. Cam Ward have pledged their support for the bill, Fetner said. Several local municipalities have passed resolutions voicing their support as well, including the city of Clanton and the town of Maplesville. Jemison and Thorsby councils as well as the Chilton County Commission are expected to consider similar resolutions at future meetings.