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Wood County Commission approves grant effort

Wood County Grant Coordinator Toni Tiano, left, and Wood County Circuit Clerk Celeste Ridgway appeared before the Wood County Commission on Thursday to apply for a $20,000 grant that will help the county continue to electronically scan and store circuit court records. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission has approved the application for a grant that would help the county to continue to scan and store its records electronically.

Wood County Circuit Clerk Celeste Ridgway and Wood County Grant Coordinator Toni Tiano appeared before the commission with an application to apply for $20,000 from the West Virginia County’s Records Management and Preservation Program.

“There are funds available to be able to go into the office and determine which records needed digitized, scanned and preserved as well as which records you can dispose of,” Tiano said.

She said this will be the first of a number of grant applications they are planning to handle this.

“There are a number of records there,” Tiano said.

Around $10,000 of the grant would be used for personnel costs in overtime expenses to get caught up on some of the records work in the evenings and on Saturdays. They will be looking at what needs to be scanned and what can be disposed of outright.

Another $10,000 would be used to buy around 13 scanners for everyone in the Circuit Clerk’s office to be able to do some of the work as time allows from their other duties.

Ridgway estimated her people, herself included, can get 20 additional files done a week.

Officials said personnel would be doing the most current files first and working their way back to older files. Ridgway said her people have scanners available, but they are eight to nine years old.

“They have done a nice job for us, but the load we are going to put on them we need something more,” she said. “The grant can cover that and it is a great opportunity to get that.

“My staff is excited about getting things cleaned up.”

Once replaced, the old scanners would be used as back-ups for whoever might need them across county offices.

Getting the records scanned and stored electronically has been a priority for the commission for the last couple of years. The old sheriff’s department building, at the corner of Second and Avery streets, is filled with old records the commission has been wanting to get cleaned out.

It has also been a priority to scan records for Ridgway, who took over the position from the retiring circuit clerk Carole Jones within the last year.

Concerns in the past have always centered around possibly needing a record at a later date and being careful not to dispose of anything that might be important.

“A lot of this stuff we aren’t going to have to scan as it is way past its retention time,” Ridgway said, adding a number of records have already been given the approval from state officials to be dispose of.

Other records, which have historical value, will soon be turned over to the state Archives and History Department which will clear out more space, Ridgway said.

Commission President Blair Couch said a long-term plan for the county is to use the footprint of the old County Jail site along Second Street to build a new record repository, maintenance facility and garage for the sheriff’s department on the space so the old building can be torn down.

Ridgway said she is positive they won’t need that building to store records in once all the work is completed. She feels they will have the space in her office to retain what they will need to retain there.

“I’m hoping to remove us completely from the storage problems,” she said.

Anything deemed to be disposed of will also have to be shredded because of personal information on some of the records, officials said, adding there are businesses that have bulk rates for shredding.

The county will have to apply a 10 percent match if the grant is awarded. The commission unanimously approved the application for the grant.

In other business:

∫ The commission unanimously approved appointing Jennifer Carpenter to the Parkersburg/Wood County Public Library Board.

∫ The commission also held hearings on dilapidated properties at 419 Emerick Lane and 603 Marrtown Road, Parkersburg.

Compliance Officer Sarah Robinson went over what was happening at both properties.

The Emerick Lane property had a fire and was in a state of disrepair. The owner had secured it and is in the process of trying to get a contractor who might be able to fix the property or may have it torn down. The commission gave the owner 60 days to come up with some kind of plan to move forward.

The Marrtown Road property has been before the commission before with complaints of debris and more cluttering up the property. The owners previously said they had plans to fix the property. However, a relative has been staying at the property. Although the owners tried to secure the house on the property, people are camping in tents in the yard there and bodily waste has been found around the property.

Commissioners agreed to move forward with demolition plans for the structures there. The owners will be contacted with the commission’s intent.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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