WARREN - A group negotiating oil and gas mineral agreements for Trumbull County landowners is about to put up more than $250,000 to make centuries-old property deeds more accessible to the public.
The Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley, or ALOV, has agreed in principle to pay for Trumbull County's paper land title records to be electronically imaged. If approved, the group will hire Cuyahoga Falls-based Document Technology Systems to scan and digitize records in the Trumbull County Recorder's Office that date back nearly 220 years.
There's a separate proposed agreement between ALOV and Trumbull County to provide access to the records; a county sheriff's deputy for security, paid for by ALOV; and quality assurance.
Money will not change hands between the county and ALOV. What the county will get is nearly 2 million pages imaged for free, a task that would have cost about a $250,000, said recorder Diana Marchese.
For ALOV, the move could improve its bargaining position with gas and oil drillers looking to buy the mineral rights, said assistant county prosecutor Bill Danso. Having the records online saves people doing title searches from the time-consuming method of flipping through large and sometimes heavy books of records.
It will provide round-the-clock access to all of the county's records for anyone doing title searches.
''It's really a perfect solution for benefiting both of us,'' Danso said.
A message seeking comment from ALOV president Bob Rea was not immediately returned. Marchese said ALOV is paying the $253,000 bill to have the records imaged.
The move is one more indication that natural gas companies are getting closer to drilling for natural gas and oil believed to be pocketed in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays deep below northeast Ohio and Trumbull County.
Commissioners could vote on the agreement between the county and ALOV as soon as today.
If the terms discussed Wednesday remain the same, Trumbull will provide access to the records, kept in the recorder's office inside the county administration building and in the nearby Stone Building from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the week and some weekend hours, Marchese said.
The office will keep its regular hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and regular business won't be interrupted, Marchese said. The office will not be open for business during the extended hours.
In addition, ALOV will pay up to $19,000 to provide for a sheriff's deputy for security. The agreement calls for the project to be completed by June 15.
Marchese said Document Technology Systems (DTS) will provide a supervisor and about 30 workers to do the job. The recorder's office will make sure the records, dating from 1795 to 1980, are handled properly, something Marchese is confident will happen. Document Technology Systems has done work for Trumbull County in the past.
''They understand the importance of the records,'' she said.
Pat Kelly with DTS wrote in an email that this is a positive opportunity for Trumbull County. Recorders in other counties have been overwhelmed at times by oil and gas companies doing record searches, he said.
In addition, the drilling boom has made it difficult for normal users of the office to do business and causes increased expenses for those offices in the form of additional staff, hours and space.
''Having a group step up and pay for the digitizing of those records will allow most of that work to be done remotely. As well as make those records easily available to anyone else doing business in Trumbull County,'' Kelly wrote.
As soon as possible after scanning, the plan is to put the records online with an explanation there has not been a final quality assurance check, which will happen with the process is complete, Marchese said.
Key in developing the agreement was that the records remain available to everyone.
''We wanted to make sure it was for the recorder, for the citizens of Trumbull County,'' Danso said. ''We didn't want to get into a situation where one company would do this and it not be available to everybody.''