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Washington County records impacted by COVID-19

Readers of the Times have relied for decades on the inclusion of public records such as police reports, property transfers and notations of both marriages and divorces in Washington County in addition to public meeting announcements, legal advertisements and obituaries.Then the coronavirus pandemic added an extra hurdle in 2020 to fulfill the expectation of printing public records.

The challenge: Past inclusion of many public records required physical, weekly visits into separate county offices for manual input.

Washington County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Tim Williams adjusted his office’s software output last year to provide marriage records digitally in response.

This followed a trajectory of moving records or the transmission thereof online over the past five years, in the footsteps of releases by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Marietta Police Department.

This week saw strides in the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s local posts considering similar steps under the leadership of Lt. Chris Chesar.But property records, an oft-noted draw per readers calls and emails, are larger files to process.

“Three years ago now, we started doing our transfers digitally,” explained Washington County Auditor Matthew Livengood on Friday.

A 30-tab digital spreadsheet noting cumulative transfers throughout the year was first provided by the auditor’s office when Livengood began in the elected position.

That information was then entered by Times staff into readable formats for public consumption.

“Well, the company that was providing that service … they informed us about October of last year that as of January, that that service was no longer going to be available,” said Livengood.

This, in addition to the impacts of coronavirus upon a small staff, saw delays in reports periodically throughout 2020.

Records in today’s edition catch up the remainder of 2020 records and the first two weeks of transfers for 2021, following staffing impacts in both offices due to coronavirus.

Property records can still be searched on the county auditor’s website by owner, parcel number, address and interactive map.

“That will not change, though I am in the process, hoping to go live Feb. 1 with a whole new website,” previewed Livengood.

Livengood said he hopes that the new interface will present easier navigation for users searching for specific parcel data in 2021.

The current website will remain live with 2020 information but no 2021 transfers until the new website is launched.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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