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In an expansive office on Adams Street in downtown Toledo, thousands of documents each day are fed into machines and digitally imaged.
In Bowling Green, a similar process occurs daily.
But while Lucas and Wood counties have invested in the staff and equipment to reduce decades worth of documents into images and microfilm, other counties have not yet made the transition.
With plans to offer digital imaging to surrounding counties while making their own records centers self-sustaining, the clerks of courts in Lucas and Wood counties are teaming together to offer the service to surrounding counties. They hope to have the program up and running by June.
"We are living in a time period when all government needs to work together to accomplish the same goal, which is cutting cost for the constituents," said Bernie Quilter, Lucas County clerk of courts. "The concept that [Wood County Clerk of Courts] Cindy Hofner and I are proposing would truly be government shared services, saving money for all counties that we would partner with, as well as preserving records for public view."
The commissioners in Lucas and Wood counties recently approved resolutions for the clerks to seek a joint grant for a feasibility study. Mr. Quilter said the $400,000 grant from the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund would help create a plan to offer digital imaging to counties as far south as Hardin and as far east as Richland and Huron.
Imaging centers in Wood and Lucas counties handle archiving documents for many of the counties' offices and departments. In Wood County, the records center is run by the commissioners, Ms. Hofner said.
Ms. Hofner said she remembers having to store records in the attic, basement, and in her office -- anywhere she could find space. Now, through imaging, her office and others have been able to reduce the amount of paper documents kept on hand.
"We have a retention schedule guided by superintendence rules that all of us clerks have to live by," she said, noting that for a criminal case, all records must be kept for 50 years.
"Storage is money. We're in a different world, we need to move away from that paper," Ms. Hofner added.
But many counties don't yet have the equipment necessary to create an environment less reliant on paper. Collectively, she and Mr. Quilter hope to offer that.
"It is more of a service we can offer to our counterparts throughout the district so we can all work together to get our records microfilmed timely," she said.
Mr. Quilter said the Lucas-Wood partnership was born because each county had something to offer. Wood County has the ability to take old microfilm and create a digital image, and Lucas County has several imaging machines sitting idle -- a consequence of cost cuts in years past.
Also, by using equipment already purchased and staff provided by local developmentally disabled agencies -- such as Lott Industries in Lucas County and Wood Lane Residential Services in Wood County -- and funded through grants, the cost of expanding imaging services should be negligible, Mr. Quilter said. The counties using the services also would pay.
"There would be no increase to the general fund," he said. "It would be totally self-sufficient."
Paul MacDonald, Fulton County clerk of courts, said the service could be beneficial to his county, which has no equipment to scan documents.
"We possibly could benefit because we have a lot to get scanned and to get microfilmed," he said. " … There's a need for it."
Toledo City Council is also looking to Mr. Quilter's imaging center to help archive more than 100 years worth of documents. Noting the man hours necessary to find items such as past council resolutions, the council decided to look into digitally imaging its paper trail.
They first turned to Mr. Quilter.
"I think the idea that came out of [a council retreat] was that not only do we have to go backward but also we have to image all of our legislation moving forward. So it would be a two-prong effort," said Councilman Rob Ludeman, a member of a three-member committee researching the issue.
"It really is something that needs to be done and probably should have been done a long time ago," he added.
Contact Erica Blake at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.