The Tarrant County commissioners approved a contract for technology upgrades in multiple rooms, though newly elected County Judge Tim O’Hare voted againts the nearly quarter-million-dollar venture.

During the Jan. 17 meeting in Fort Worth, two contracts for professional services with Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc., were approved.

The Carrollton-based acoustic consultants will look at the central jury room at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center, located at 401 W. Belknap St., and the commissioners court room in the Tarrant County Administrative Building, located at 100 E. Weatherford St., Ste. 502, to improve audio and visual technology. The criminal justice center contact is for $30,800, and the commissioners court room is $198,920.

The contract starts on June 6, and there will be three 12-month renewals as part of the contract.

Commissioners Gary Fickes, Alisa Simmons and Roy Charles Brooks voted in favor, while O’Hare voted no. Commissioner Manny Ramirez was not at the meeting, as he was attending swearing-in ceremonies in Austin.

“I have a serious problem with this. That is almost $230,000 just to review this,” O’Hare said. “That is an exorbitant sum of money to go look at it and tell us what we need.”

County Administrator G.K. Maenius noted the money would come from the American Rescue Plan Act and not out of general funds.

He said the company will come back with an assessment for the project and then provide the cost to improve the audio and visual elements in the rooms. Maenius noted the recordings help the county transcribe minutes from the meetings.

County staff members said a standardized platform is needed to help replace aging equipment, which is between 15-20 years old.

The new technology, once approved, will allow the commissioners court to hold meetings anywhere, even during an emergency, staff told the commission.

“I’ve been watching [meetings] for a year, and the technology is horrible, and the audio is pretty bad,” said Simmons, who won the election in November to represent Precinct 2.

O’Hare questioned how big the county’s internet technology department is—217 employees—and if anyone had the skill set in the department to come up with a plan to save the money. He was advised there are not employees who could provide the services Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, Inc., could.

“I think we can find a lot better uses for ARPA funds than this,” O’Hare said.