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Options discussed for old county records

December 14, 2012

Auglaize County Commissioner Doug Spencer

Options for storing Auglaize County’s old paper records are being discussed going into the new year.

In a meeting with representatives of the Clerk’s of Court’s Office, Common Pleas Court and Informational Technology Department, the Auglaize County commissioners this week sat down to develop a “game plan” for short- and long-term storage of these records.

Commissioner Doug Spencer said the commissioners wanted to help however they could in the process, which includes different scanning and imaging options, microfilm or continuing to store the paper records in boxes.

“We have a couple of options,” Auglaize County Common Pleas Judge Mark Spees said. “I think we ought to explore all the options and see which ones fits best.”

County officials also planned to look again, as well as more in-depth, at companies that can be hired to image the records, which date back to the mid-1840s.

The advantages and disadvantages of each were discussed, with plans to get more details on each. Cost is expected to be high, which is likely be a major factor, as well as the amount of time, which is expected to be lengthy.

Spees said in the past, he had inquired about imaging and then destroying all paper documents from 1960 to present, as any paperwork before that would need to be approved by the Ohio Historical Society before it could be destroyed.

With another company scanning the documents, Commissioner Don Regula said he was concerned about moving them off-site and something happening to the records in the process.

No matter where they are being scanned there were concerns of mistakes being made due to the monotony of the work and the confidential material the documents contain being compromised.

“It’s a careful, tedious job and requires someone with some understanding of the papers they are dealing with,” Auglaize County Clerk of Courts Jean Meckstroh said.

For a company to do the imaging, commissioners anticipated it costing between $250,000 and $300,000 based on previous estimates, while hiring someone to do the imaging part-time at a rate of $10 an hour would cost $60,000 over five years.

Spees favored the quickest route of imaging the documents as the sooner that can be done then the sooner the system would be available to the public.

“The whole idea is to get to the point where we don’t have paper at all,” Spees said.

Planning to take all options into consideration, commissioners said they would like to find one that would allow for all the records to be imaged within five years.

Meckstroh said with an employee continuing to do other work, it has taken more than a year to image a year’s worth of documents and get them into the system.

“It takes time,” Meckstroh said. “We have 1,095 boxes. I can’t imagine the number of pages we have.”    

Common Pleas Court Deputy Clerk Sue Foote said Probate Court has another 600 boxes and Juvenile Court has more than that.

The county stores records in several different locations and pays for part of the 1,000-square feet needed to store materials off-site.

Auglaize County courts moved toward a paperless system in 2011 at a cost of $81,265 for software, training and support. Work began toward the move in 2008, but was delayed when courthouse offices were moved temporarily during renovations. At this time, all current records are being imaged daily and older records imaged as well — as time allows.

Former Clerk of Courts Sue Ellen Kohler said at the time the paperless system was implemented that she expected the new system to lead to financial savings and better public service.

Someone requesting a document under the existing system may have to wait a few days to access it, whereas under a new system, where all images are documented, they could have the record they need within minutes.

Auglaize County Computer Operations Manager Cameron Ruppert also recommended that the imaged records undergo periodic conversion updates to keep up with changing technology.

“We’ve got to stay on top of this,” Spencer said requesting county officials to check into costs and time frames and bring them back to a followup meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

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