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Commission gives nod to technology

January 15, 1998

Commission gives nod to technology

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The paper chase could soon be over in the circuit clerk and county clerk offices with the Berkeley County Commission's Thursday vote to give the go-ahead for computer systems that could eliminate the need to keep literally tons of documents.

The hardware and software for the systems would cost an estimated $163,000 and could be paid for with funds available in the current year's budget, according to County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm.

She said the county has almost $77,000 available for the system and County Clerk John Small and Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine said they had the money in their budgets to make up the balance.

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"This is a computer system that could meet 75 percent, perhaps 80 percent ... of our computer needs," Sheetenhelm told the Commission. She said voter registration software would have to be added later.

Sheetenhelm said that with the ongoing address conversion project, nearly everyone in the county eventually will get a new registration.

The system potentially could pay for itself since attorneys and others who need access to civil and criminal records, deeds and other documents could gain that access from their offices and be billed automatically, Sine said.

"It reduces the need for every lawyer in Berkeley County to have a key to the courthouse" for after-hours document searches, Commissioner James Smith said.

Sheetenhelm said the system could be linked with other county offices. In future budgets, she said, more computer workstations could be added in the offices.

Sine told the Commission that documents would be scanned as they come into the office and stored on disk, with a backup disk off-site. Users could have hard copies of documents printed or faxed to them.

Sine said she and Small have been developing a plan for the system with Software Systems Inc. of Morgantown, W.Va., a state-approved vendor that could become a bidder on the contract.

Sine hopes the project can be advertised, bid and installed in a matter of months.

Sine said the system would free up space used for storing documents. It also could reduce the time spent looking for records that have been misfiled, misplaced or taken from the office.

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