YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mahoning County is in the process of converting all of its paper court documents to digital files.
Every day, hundreds of new county records are created in offices and courts. Each has to be kept permanently, but now they are stashed away in the basement of Oakhill Place.
“A lot, a lot of records. Boxes and boxes of records,” said Budget Director Audrey Tillis.
Just because there needs to be a permanent record doesn’t mean there needs to be a physical document.
Microfilm takes up much less space and digital copies take up even less than that. So the county is converting all of the paper documents to computer files with a microfilm backup.
However, new records are created faster than the county can convert them, so the paper is piling up in a huge backlog.
“Going back to 2005, 2006, 7, 8 in the civils, and even other areas that were back into the 1990s,” Tillis said.
Several years ago, the county hired experts from Cuyahoga County to help convert the backlog and now, bit by bit, it’s getting completed.
“They had the equipment, the machines and stuff to help us move forward and get a lot of the backlog caught up, and that will bring our staff up-to-date and move forward from that point, and keep things going,” Tillis said.
Commissioners approved a new contract Thursday to continue the work.
It turns out that some of the most requested documents are divorce records from 30 years ago, which haven’t been digitized. People need that information for Social Security.
“If you think about it, it makes sense. The average person works 30, 40 years and if they were divorced during that time period and they are trying to collect,” said Microfilm Director Jessy Horkey. “The whole digitization process is going to take care of a lot of the boxes, especially we have an area project coming up.”
After those records are done, the contractors will next tackle the seven million or so records generated by the four county district courts. That will take several years and several thousands of dollars.
“They’re going to have to scan each image for us and they’re doing it case by case,” Horkey said.
All told, the project will cost around $400,000. Thursday’s work includes an extra $25,000 to store the divorce records.