Cable in the courtroom

County commissioners present 'new' court video technology; sheriff says equipment has been gathering dust


Moffat County officials this morning touted a television link between the courthouse and jail -- the county's first connection under a nearly three-year-old telecommunications grant that law enforcement and court staff say they expected to have with the arrival of the Moffat County Public Safety Center in 2001.

"They (NC Telecom) have not met a lot of these deadlines, but now we're looking at the end product," said Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos.

A video arraignment system -- connecting court facilities at the Moffat County Courthouse and the jail -- was used for the first time Tuesday by Judge Mary Lynne James.

"I'm very comfortable with it, but this is not new technology," said James, noting that advisements or various court procedures were common via television link prior to jail's relocation in July 2001.

Hearing by telephone conference largely replaced that, while officials noted future transportation cost savings the new link will make possible.

Last year, the sheriff's department spent more than $38,000 on inmate transportation, according to department figures.

Fifty-percent of those costs could be saved with deputies freed-up from running prisoners back and forth to local court, and beyond, said Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

"Bigger than that is the manpower," Grinstead said.

While praising the new system, Grinstead noted it isn't a new idea.

"We've had this equipment since moving into the building," he said.

Moreover, the sheriff insists commissioners and NC Telecom have offered six separate dates for finishing

the work.

Moffat County placed the work order last month.

Raftopoulos, however, said the sheriff's department didn't request the link until a December department head meeting.

"That did not come to my attention," Raftopoulos said regarding previous completion dates for the hook-up.

Rick Heming, NC Telecom's operations manager, said the connection was partially enabled by links requested through Qwest over copper wires. Qwest offered a time frame of "seven to 10 days" for getting that work done, he said.

Month-to-month line charges of $230 for the new connection would be paid up to three years under the Beanpole grant, as well as estimated one-time charges of $1,500 for routers at both the jail and courthouse, Heming added.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at

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