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Brust, Wood County Commission talk future of book about courthouse’s past

Photo by Brett Dunlap Wood County Courts Coordinator Pam Brust, who authored the book, “Wood County Courthouse History,” appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to present her final copy of the book to the county. County officials are looking for a way to print the book and make it available to the public.

PARKERSBURG — A book on the history of the current Wood County Courthouse has been finished and county officials will be looking to having it printed and sold to the public.

Wood County Courts Coordinator Pam Brust, who authored the book, “Wood County Courthouse History,” appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to present her final copy of the book to the county.

She submitted a copy presented in a notebook binder so officials would have something they could look through as well as a digital copy for the County Administrator for it to eventually be printed from.

The book covers all the Wood County Courthouses and took Brust about 1 1/2 years to get it all done as there were delays because of COVID and other issues in getting research materials due to a number of closures.

“This was an additional project I took on,” she said. “I asked the commissioners for permission to do it, so I worked on it a lot on my own time.”

The book will be 62 pages long. Brust said once it is printed, she would donated copies to the local libraries as well as a number to keep at the courthouse for interested people.

The current courthouse is actually the fourth public building and fifth courthouse for Wood County, going back to the first was actually a home.

Brust covered the county for more than 40 years as a reporter with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

“I pulled some stuff I didn’t know,” Brust said. “Once you start diving into things, you find all kinds of stuff.”

Commissioner Jimmy Colombo suggested looking for grants that might get the book published or other fundraising efforts might be looked at to raise the money that might be needed.

“I know how important the history of the courthouse is,” he said.

Commission President Blair Couch said they can look into what the printing costs might be.

“And then we will go from there,” he said.

In other business, Brust also informed the commission the county has reached the over $500,000 mark for credits received from the state from the auditing she does of the county’s monthly regional jail bill since she started with the county in February 2017.

The total amount of credits received, as of Monday, is $502,063.55, Brust said.

“We still see errors,” she said of how they are being billed.

In 2019, she found $44,082.50 in credits. In 2021, she found $68,967. So far this year, she found $15,874 in credits. Those amounts have been credited back to the county and resulted in savings on the jail bill.

Brust has audited records going back to at least 2006.

There were a lot of circumstances that happened during COVID which were outside the control of local officials which caused a backlog of cases as court operations were slowed down, officials said.

Officials talked to court officials and others about the jail bill and trying to keep costs under control while still making sure offenders were still locked up.

“You have saved us over half-a-million dollars,” Couch told Brust. “There is inherent savings there.”

The years of 2017, 2018 and 2019 were all lean years where the county’s finances were tight, he said.

The jail bill has been increasing recently, reaching over $200,000 a month for the first time in awhile.

Brust said when laws changed, there was always a catch-up period. They have been charged the wrong amounts as billing catches up to the new laws, the county was billed when the State Department of Corrections should have been billed, certain documents are reaching the state offices in a timely manner and other things have happened that Brust discovers during her auditing.

In auditing the bills, she has received assistance from the Prosecutor’s Office, the Circuit Clerk’s Office and other county offices.

Commissioners commended the work Brust did and how they are not trying to be soft on crime.

“We want to get all the bad guys off the street,” Couch said. “We want to grease the wheels to get them adjudicated.”

That helps get many off the county’s bills and be paid for on the state level.

In other business:

* The county will set the levy rate at 9 a.m. today at the commission chambers in the courthouse. Officials said they would not be changing the levy rate. The proposed $25,389,488 budget, which included a number of grants, was passed unanimously in March by the commission. The levy rate is expected to raise what the county will need.

Officials were able to provide a 4 percent pay increase to employees. The money will be put in certain line items and the elected official/department head will decide how to distribute it. Officials said there will be money available to help with some of the repairs needed at the Mid-Ohio Valley Airport and they are looking at purchasing vehicles and other equipment for the Wood County Sheriff’s Department. The commission is also expected to pay off what is owed for new voting equipment.

Brett Dunlap can be reached at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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