The controversial digitizing of records for the Brevard County Clerk of Courts has begun and preliminary contract benchmarks are being met, according to Katerina Pringis, Public Records Research Clerk for the Clerk’s Office.
Clerk Mitch Needelman announced the award of the five-year, $8.52 million contract with BlueGem, LLC in late June 2012 during the Republican primary race. Former Clerk Scott Ellis defeated Needleman in that election.
The contract calls for the digitizing of all past, current, and future Clerk’s office records, including many that are currently stored in a former gymnasium in Titusville.
“On September 6, the test images were delivered to Brevard Clerk’s Office for the IT Department to view. Redaction should occur this week. A second shipment has been scanned and is also pending redaction,” Pringis said.
Scott Ellis, who still faces a write-in challenger in the general election, claims that the digitizing effort is being run on “a shoestring from a house.”
Ellis added, “The Clerk spends more money daily checking out the files and driving them from Titusville to Melbourne and back. Her (Rose Harr, CEO and President of BlueWare) business is broke. They’ve taken in over a million dollars and all there is to show for it is a rental house and a few hundred bucks worth of scanners. There is no future to this effort. None. All the money paid is simply thrown down a rat hole.”
Kaitlin Welliver of BlueWare disputes Ellis’ characterization.
“Currently, BlueGEM is utilizing a temporary location in the downtown of Melbourne to get things up and running. At this location, mostly preparation work for the production phase of the project is being done so that when the permanent location is active in a matter of weeks, the project can continue seamlessly,” Welliver said.
The company also announced that a permanent facility is close to being ready to occupy, and that once operational, they would be hosting an open house event to showcase their expansion into the Brevard community, and the technologies and tools the company uses to bring record-keeping and management into the next century.
During the campaign Ellis questioned the legitimacy and financing of the contract. He also filed a lawsuit against the Clerk’s Office, claiming there were actually two contracts signed. The court sided with Needelman on that issue.
Pringis said that currently process testing and development is continuing and the Clerk’s records department is clarifying and completing the deliverables timetable agreed to in the contract.
She added that the process involves different levels of coordination between the Clerk’s Office and BlueGem. “Clerk’s staff identifies a series of records to be scanned, pulls the court files, updates the file location in our records tracking application, and delivers them to BlueWare. We pick them back up after the documents have been scanned, redacted, and we have confirmed that their quality control efforts were successful.”
According to the company, the program is set to achieve one of its most ambitious goals. Before the end of the year, BlueGEM will have scanned 1.5 million documents of the county’s court records and will have made them accessible.
"This is a very exciting time for all of us at BlueWare / BlueGEM,” Welliver added. “Since we’ve moved here, we’ve seen visions and goals materialize into something great.”
BlueWare, the parent company of BlueGEM, moved its corporate headquarters from Cadillac, Michigan to Melbourne in early spring of 2012 in hopes of accessing Brevard County’s large pool of technological talent as well as finding a strategic location for growing the business.
“The reason we came to Brevard County was primarily for the highly-trained talent of the Space Coast,” Harr said regarding the move. “The heart of every company is its people. We aspire to hire 25 more people by the end of the year.”