The Washington County Commissioners on Thursday agreed to approve a resolution for an additional court fee.
While the additional $20 fee might have some groaning, the money will be going for a project of historical significance.
A resolution to create a special fund for the fee was presented to the commissioners by Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane. The resolution states that the $20 fee will be assessed for "Court Records Preservation" by the clerk of the Washington County Common Pleas Court for all filings of action on and after Dec. 1, 2013.
The records preservation project has been a long time coming, Lane said.
"They're originals, one of a kind, and they need to be preserved," Commission President David White said.
The records date back to when Marietta was settled in 1788. There are even record books from the Ohio Supreme Court.
"We have the first index of the Ohio Supreme Court," Lane said, adding that somewhere amongst the stacks of records the actual court documents sit hidden, waiting to be found.
Air conditioning has already been added to the courthouse attic, where the majority of records are kept, in order to keep the records from deteriorating. Blinds have also been ordered to help keep the rays from the sun out.
FamilySearch, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is taking over the daunting task of sorting through all the records shoved haphazardly into corners in the courthouse. They will bring in their own equipment and set up their own team to take special care of the documents.
FamilySearch is not charging anything to come in and complete the digitization project. The additional $20 fee will be for the preservation of the original documents, which will include archival folders and boxes, and upkeep of the air conditioning system.
"Why they're so interested is that (Marietta was) the first (settlement) in the Northwest Territory," Commissioner Ron Feathers added.
The project will include cleaning, restoring, preserving and archiving the records and then digitizing them.
Lane said a lot of credit goes to Linda Showalter in the Marietta College Special Collections.
"She's so amazing," Lane said, adding that Showalter was pivotal in getting the ball rolling on the project.
He added that in the current electronic age the county should take advantage of the benefits technology provides, such as finally making the records available to the public, especially because many people have no idea about the treasure trove of history sitting helter-skelter inside the courthouse.
"We should have taken advantage of it a long time ago," Lane said. "The technology is right, right now...It's going to be a wonderful thing because what we have will be out there for people to use."
"We have something special here we can't let rot," Lane added. "It's all coming together, finally."
In other business:
The commissioners tabled a discussion on a policy for bow hunts of deer in the city until the Marietta City Board of Education has a chance to review it.
The Commissioners met with Main Street Marietta, formerly ReStore Marietta, to discuss a funding request of $10,000. Half of that would be used for a matching grant Facade Improvement Program, and $5,000 would be used for administrative funding. The group's goal is to revitalize Marietta's historic downtown.