After converting its paper files to electronic images and preserving them on microfilm, Wood County ran more than 5,150 pounds of divorce records through the shredder last year.
In Lucas County, the imaging lab that processes records from the courts and other county departments shredded 161,018 pounds of paper.
It’s a necessary but time-consuming task that has prompted the two counties to come together to look at marketing the service to 20 other counties throughout northwest Ohio. The Lucas and Wood county clerks of court recently landed a $90,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development’s Local Government Innovation Fund to study the feasibility of such a multicounty venture.
“Instead of every county around us going out and getting their own imaging equipment — especially the small counties that can’t afford it — they can hire us,” said Lucas County Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter.
“We teamed up to try to make it a regional records center. There’s no reason why every county has to have all this equipment. We can just do it, and I think we’d be cheaper than a vendor.”
Lucas County contracts with Lott Industries to help staff its imaging lab on Adams Street, which scans and indexes documents not only for the clerk of courts office but also for several other county departments. The Wood County Records Center employs some workers from Wood Lane to scan records and transfer them to microfilm.
Wood County Clerk of Courts Cindy Hofner said getting the older court files on microfilm enables her to free up a lot of space.
“Storage is money,” Ms. Hofner pointed out.
In Henry County, Clerk of Courts Connie Schnitkey said her county stores older court records off-site, meaning they are not immediately accessible to the public at the courthouse.
Her staff now scans documents from current cases, but most older cases are not available electronically and none has been transferred to microfilm.
“I like what they’re talking about — that they would come and pick [the records] up. They would get them microfilmed and scanned,” she said.
Ms. Schnitkey is somewhat hesitant, though, because she has contracted with Future View, a document-scanning and shredding business run by Hope Services, to scan some records.
““I wouldn’t want to take away from our local people who we are giving employment to,” Ms. Schnitkey said. “If that would mean they would be without jobs, I don’t know if I can do that.”
Fulton County Clerk of Courts Paul MacDonald said his staff just began scanning court documents for the first time last month, so he’s not sure when he would be ready to look at scanning older records and placing them on microfilm or microfiche.
“We’ll definitely take a look at it once we get ready to do something like that,” he said.
During the next six months, Mr. Quilter said, officials will be looking at what kind of work could be done, how many counties would be interested in the service, and what the staffing needs would be.
“It’s a step toward regional and shared services,” he said. “I know it will work.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.
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