County must purchase new voting machines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2005

In order to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which President George W. Bush endorsed in July of 2001, Butler County Probate Judge Steve Norman asked the Butler County Commission for its approval to place a Feb. 1 purchase order for 22 new voting machines. At the county commission's Thursday evening workshop, Norman said that the new voting equipment would be installed specifically for special needs' citizens in the county.

&#8220These machines will have touch screens, head phones, a Braille pad, in short, anything that someone with any special need or disability would need in order to vote,” Norman said.

The new voting machines, which will be supplied by Election Systems Software, will allow people with disabilities to vote without any outside assistance.

They will also produce a ballot, which would not be distinguishable from ballots produced by the voting machines now in use. Presently, according to Norman, that is not the case.

Because of the current lease with Election Systems Software, the new voting equipment will be compatible with the machines already in use. Even though there are 27 voting precincts in the county, there are 22 polling locations.

Norman said that the costs for the new equipment would be $6,000 per machine, for a total cost of $132,000 for the 22 new machines. Plus, there is a five-year service agreement in this cost.

&#8220Some of these machines may not be used at all, but we must comply with federal law,” Norman said.

With a Feb. 1 deadline, Norman said that the purchase order must be placed by then in order to receive a reimbursement from federal funds. Delivery of the new voting equipment would then be in May of 2006.

In other business, Norman asked the commission to consider creating a separate account for returned check fees. This separate account, containing $1,000, will be used to cover the costs of recovering returned checks.

Bond attorney David Ringlestein, a public finance lawyer from Birmingham, introduced himself to the commission. He will be overseeing the new bond for the county's new jail, which the commission will discuss in full at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Ringlestein said that his fees &#8220have some to do with the size of the bond.” He will charge approximately $15,000 to serve as the underwriter's and bond counsel. Commissioner Frank Hickman said that Ringelstein's fee was very reasonable.

Reese Rainey of Capital Markets came before the commission to discuss the loan, payments and possible interest rates for the bond for the new Butler County jail. According to Rainey, a possible 30-year loan will include interest payments of twice a year and a principal payment once a year.

Groundbreaking for the new jail is tentatively set for May of 2006. It should take approximately 18 months to complete from that time.

&#8220We're ready to do this project,” Commission Chairman Jesse McWilliams said.

Butler County engineer Dennis McCall addressed the commission with several issues, which will be discussed further at Monday's meeting.

Butler County Emergency Management Agency director Bob Luman said that Jan. 8 was the set date for the application for new weather warning sirens. He said that there would be 37 new sirens placed within the county, with 15 of them at the volunteer fire departments. One of the new sirens would also be placed at Cambrian Ridge.

The Butler County Commission's regular meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 19 in commission chambers.