F. Barry Wilkes
Clerk of Courts
Christmas Comes to Liberty Court Clerk's Office in November
Liberty County Clerk of Courts Barry Wilkes and staff received their Christmas gifts early in 1998.
The Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority
(GSCCCA) awarded the local court clerks' office a grant for the purchase of new computers. "They came by Federal Express, not by sleigh, but we were just as glad to get them. It was like Christmas in November, an answer to our prayers," Wilkes said. "My staff and I have been trying to keep pace with increases in the workload for the four courts we serve, using computers that should have been put out to pasture several years ago, and so slow that we wasted valuable manpower each time we used them. Additionally, they (computers) were not Y2K (Year 2000) compliant, so I was faced with the dilemma of what I was going to do on January 1, 2000, when the computers were no longer functional. I'd the county (commission) for funding for the last four years to incrementally replace old processors (computers), but the money was never there. So, I went to begging-which, over the years I've learned how to do well and which is how I got the old computers. Thank goodness, the Authority responded."
The local court clerk's office received fourteen new Pentium II processors and monitors from GSCCA. "Using the new computers is like driving a tractor, then hopping on a jet plane. It's all the difference in the world in terms of speed and efficiency," Wilkes said. "The first day my staff used them, they didn't want to go home. It was the first time in several years that they did not have to wait and wait on their computers to move between programs and applications. The new computers meet industry standards."
The grant from GSCCA is the second Wilkes has received during the past two years. "Last year, they awarded $10,000 earmarked for usage for the statewide real estate information system which goes on-line on January 1 next year. "Our old server was not suitable for usage for the upcoming deed project, so I used the funds to replace a file server that was on its last leg, to completely wire the courthouse for everyone's usage of our local-area network, and to upgrade network software. Even though the money was earmarked for the deed project, the way I used it will help us do other jobs, such as docketing cases and managing juries," he said.
The clerk's office relies heavily on automation, enabling the office's twelve deputy clerks and the clerk to provide clerical support to the four courts and nine judges to which they attend, to process volumes of real estate and personal property records, and to keep up with mounds of accounting, jury-related, and quasi-civil records. "If I had not automated the office in 1985 when I was first elected, there is not telling how many employees it would take to do the work that my small staff and I do. Even if we hired additional employees-which I do not advocate, without automation we would still not be able to perform our jobs as efficiently as we do now. Two years ago, I learned that, in offices in counties with population comparable to Liberty County and workloads comparable to this office, they employed almost twice as many employees as I do. Our workload is approximately the eighth largest for any superior court clerk's office in Georgia and continues to gow each year. While I'm blessed to have employees who are hardworking, loyal, and dedicated, automation is the only way I can ensure that the office does what I'm elected to do: look after and protect records of the citizens of Liberty County. Without it, our operations would be crippled."
GSCCA is a state authority created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1993 to implement and operate a statewide, automated information system for Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. In 1999, the authority will go on-line with the nation's first system for on-line retrieval of statewide real estate information. "I was president of the Council of Superior Court Clerks of Georgia during inception of the UCC project and helped design the statewide network. It took almost three years of hard work to get the project up and running. With the help of (former State Representative) Jimmy Floyd, who represented Liberty County at the time and who was on the House (of Representatives) banking committee which called for a revision in the state's outdated UCC system, the Authority was created primarily for the UCC project. But clerks (of superior court) looked down the road and saw it as a means for helping to improve the judicial system and commerce in Georgia. The computers provided us indicate to me that we had the right idea." The Authority is funded through charges fees for access to UCC data and a one-time charge on deeds. "Clerks of superior court are generally some of the most fiscally conservative people in government. We maintained from the onset that taxes should never be used to support the Authority. So we designed it where everything project the Authority does is paid for from revenues from projects," the local clerk of superior court said.
Although the computers replaced are not currently up to standard, Wilkes said he would donate them to county offices that are not automated or are in need of additional computers. "I have contacted a local computer repair company and they are trying to work with me to find an inexpensive way to upgrade memory and to solve the Y2K problem. We may be able to salvage them for short-term usage of personnel in departments that do not require as much random-access memory as this office does to do their jobs. If it is not cost-prohibitive, we should be able to use the computers for elsewhere for a nominal cost."