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Berkeley Co. to store court records electronically

December 30, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • The last Berkeley County Commission, comprised of County Commissioners Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci, President Ronald K. Collins and William L. "Bill" Stubblefield, from left, stand together Thursday for one last photograph together with County Administrator Deborah Hammond after the commission's last regular meeting of the year. The three-member budget-balancing arm of county government is being expanded to five members and renamed Berkeley County Council, effective Jan. 1.
By Matthew Umstead/Staff Writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Commission Thursday approved a $190,889 plan to make digital copies of millions of circuit court documents dating back to the 18th century to better preserve the records.

A $147,951 bid by Martinsburg-based HMS Technologies Inc., and $34,538 in overtime pay for the circuit clerk’s office to prepare the records for scanning, was unanimously approved by commissioners. An $8,400 software purchase for the project also was approved.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine after the commission awarded the project to HMS Technologies, which was the low bidder among seven companies.

While the circuit clerk is responsible for recording and maintaining all circuit court records, the county commission is obligated to provide adequate storage space, according to state law.

The digitization project, expected to be completed within 12 months, involves copying an estimated 4 million pages of records stored in about 1,800 file boxes, said Berkeley County Information Technology Director Gary Wine.

The file boxes have been stored in the former administration building at 126 W. King St., because Sine said she has little remaining storage space in the county’s four-year-old judicial center for new files, let alone older files.

The completion of the project will not free the county to dispose of the paper trail, but Sine said the digital copies produced at least provide a backup plan in the event of a disaster.

Wine said there would be digital copies in three different places when the project is complete.

Because of growing storage space concerns, county officials have been lobbying the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to allow counties some relief from having to keep paper records.

Wine said counties statewide are grappling with the storage-space problem.

In other commission action, Kickin Asphalt Paving & Sealing LLC of Strasburg, Va., was awarded a $29,270 contract to repave the county administration building’s Church Street parking lot. Commissioner Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci voted against the decision in a 2-1 vote .

The company’s bid was about $2,100 higher than the low bidder, PRP Contracting LLC of Martinsburg, for the work, according to county officials.

PRP Contracting, however, failed to include a certificate of insurance, an affidavit attesting to no conflict of interest and no Occupational Health and Safety Administration fines and a copy of its business license in its bid submission, county Facilities Director Jay Russell said.

The commission, meanwhile, tabled Russell’s recommendation to award a bid for fencing the parking lot to Frederick (Md.) Fence Co. Inc, which submitted a bid of $32,673 for the security project.

The low bidder, Long Fence Co. Inc., submitted a $22,265 proposal to do the fencing, but Russell said the company failed to provide statements regarding OSHA fines and an affidavit of no conflict of interest.

Russell said the fencing was needed to address concerns with vandalism, people going through county trash and illegal dumping, among other issues.

Both the paving and fencing projects are expected to be paid for with money generated from a bonds issued for the renovation of the county’s new administration building, which is situated along South Raleigh Street and West Stephen and Church streets.

The consolidation of county offices in what is known as the Dunn building at 400 W. Stephen St., along with construction of the new judicial center, were projects that outgoing Commissioner Ronald K. Collins said Thursday “whetted his appetite” to run for office six years ago. At the time, Collins was serving on the Berkeley County Building Commission, a commissioner-appointed panel that holds the titles to the county’s real estate.

In parting remarks at the end of Thursday’s meeting, Collins said the bar had been set in his six years in office and challenged the new Berkeley County Council to continue to be an innovative, progressive leader among West Virginia’s 55 counties.

“Or you can try to reinvent the wheel and be regressive,” said Collins, who was defeated in his bid for re-election this year.
Collins, 71, presided over the last meeting of the three-member Berkeley County Commission as president. The county commission is being replaced with a five-member county council.

While recognized as a new political subdivision in state law, the Berkeley County Council will retain the same budget-balancing responsibilities and other duties as county commissions in West Virginia.

When the state law was proposed to allow for expansion of the county commission to five members, state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said constitutional lawyers advised lawmakers that the name had to change because a new tribunal was being created.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said the legal argument “makes absolutely no sense,” because Jefferson County has had five commissioners for more than 100 years.

Doyle and Unger, however, agree that the new political subdivision could be used as a vehicle to get laws changed for Berkeley County by introducing legislative changes that only apply to counties with a county council. As of Jan. 1, Berkeley County will have the only county council.

“It gives us more opportunity to expand local control,” Unger said.

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