It turns out getting online at the Madison County Youth Court computer lab is a lot harder than it sounds. 

Madison County Court/Youth Court Judge Staci O’Neal attempted to gain access to the Internet for her lab last week but supervisors ultimately tabled the request to discuss the legalities. 

O’Neal explained to supervisors that when her office lost a federal grant last year, they lost the computer lab in the Youth Services building. She said Holmes Community College has since donated computers but they are unable to access the county’s network because they aren’t computers maintained by the county. 

O’Neal said Wi-Fi was spotty at best. 

As an end-around, she thought she would just sign up for a Comcast account for Internet, under her name, and asked for permission from supervisors for them to go into the county-owned building and set up the service. 

“I’m coming to you today to ask if I can get the board to sign this right-of-entry,” she said, saying the money would come from the federal grant. 

O’Neal’s request then sparked a fury of questions from supervisors and county officials ranging from security to legality. 

“I know we worry about county security,” Board President Sheila Jones said. 

County Administrator Shelton Vance said they have allowed entry to a vendor in the Citizens Services Agency once in the past and so they could explore something of that nature. He said a bigger problem exists in this situation though because of the grant itself.  

“There’s no formal recognition that the grant entity exists,” Vance said. “We don’t have a relationship with this entity to allow them into our buildings to establish Internet services.”

Vance said nothing has been given to the county and acknowledged by the board with respect to the grant entity. 

“So, what you have here is an entity operating in a county building that does not have an agreement to operate in the county building,” he said. 

“It’s a Youth Court grant,” O’Neal responded. 

District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen said there was a concern with the IT department over the Internet issue. 

“Only to the extent (IT Director) Duane (Thompson) doesn’t want to fool with the computers,” O’Neal said. “The wiring is already there. The Internet account will be in my name. I’m asking permission to hook the wires together.”

She said the IT department’s concern over getting on the county network is nullified if they get on Comcast.

Thompson responded by saying it wasn’t an issue with him not wanting to “fool with the computers.”

“Those are not county asset computers,” he said, adding they can’t put firewalls or anti-viruses up to protect them.

District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter then asked what the board could do to solve the problem. 

Board Attorney Katie Bryant Snell asked for permission to sit down with the judge and discuss the particulars of the grant and work out any concerns. 

“You can’t typically use county resources without having some type of agreement in place,” Snell said. “It’s a county facility. We’ve got some things to vet. Before we step off into this a little bit further, let’s make sure we have it correct.”

Supervisors agreed to table the request and allow Snell and Thompson time to work out any issues with the judge and provide a solution at the next board meeting.