A number of elected officials and other guests were present for the Tuesday morning, June 8 dedication ceremony for the Jackson County records storage facility, which has been named the “Roberts’ Records Building,” in honor of late former Jackson County Clerks of Court Robert Hughes and Robert Walton, as well as local historian Robert Ervin. Pictured from the left are Prosecuting Attorney Justin Lovett, Recorder Krista Brown, Jon Stevison of RVC Architects, Jackson Mayor/General Contractor for the project Randy Evans, Clerk of Courts Seth Michael, Commissioners Jon Hensler, Paul Haller and Donnie Willis, Auditor Tiffany Ridgeway, Doug, Brennen and Kim Hughes, and Jackson Historical Society representatives William “Bill” Martin, Robert Ervin, James Meacham, and George Kitchen. (All Telegram Photos by James K. Hamilton)
A number of elected officials and other guests were present for the Tuesday morning, June 8 dedication ceremony for the Jackson County records storage facility, which has been named the “Roberts’ Records Building,” in honor of late former Jackson County Clerks of Court Robert Hughes and Robert Walton, as well as local historian Robert Ervin. Pictured from the left are Prosecuting Attorney Justin Lovett, Recorder Krista Brown, Jon Stevison of RVC Architects, Jackson Mayor/General Contractor for the project Randy Evans, Clerk of Courts Seth Michael, Commissioners Jon Hensler, Paul Haller and Donnie Willis, Auditor Tiffany Ridgeway, Doug, Brennen and Kim Hughes, and Jackson Historical Society representatives William “Bill” Martin, Robert Ervin, James Meacham, and George Kitchen. (All Telegram Photos by James K. Hamilton)

If there was ever a good example of not judging something at face value, it was the recent dedication ceremony for the recently constructed county records storage facility at 27 East South St. in Jackson. On the surface, such an event may seem mundane or run-of-the-mill, but as Jackson County Board of Commissioners President Paul Haller (one of the spearheads of this project) put it during the Tuesday morning, June 8 ceremony, “This is more than a storage building.”

“It’s always exciting when you open any new building in your county, regardless of the size,” Haller said in front of the new site, which sits near the Jackson County Job and Family Services facility. “This is more than a storage building in how it came to where it is at this point. This became an idea in my first term in discussion with Clerk of Courts Seth Michael, and this has taken about six years to come to this point right here.”

Haller went on to say that Michael brought to his attention the need for records storage in the county, and after years of brainstorming, the men found the property on which the new facility currently sits.

“About a year-and-a-half ago, we found this piece of property, which the county owned, and it was all grass,” Haller explained. “We have no idea why it wasn’t blacktopped and used for parking, but we thought it was the perfect spot.”

Haller then welcomed Michael to address the audience and give the interesting backstory for this facility, particularly regarding how it and many other permanent improvement projects around the county in recent years received funding.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of the history of auto title fees and the money that stays here in the county,” Michael, who has been the Clerk of Court in Jackson County since 2007, said Tuesday morning. “As well as the things the Clerk’s office and Clerks in general have had to do over the years to adjust to be able to keep that money here.”

Michael stated that, in 1992, Clerk of Courts offices across the state would have been converting to computer systems. This, he said, was also a time at which when an individual bought a car, the title had to be taken to the county of residence. As a result, Michael continued, prior to 1992, Clerks of Courts did not have to do anything to keep title fees in the county.

Once the offices were on the new computer system however, Michael said many people close to the situation anticipated in the coming year or two a switch to cross-county titling, which equates to a buyer being able to secure a car title anywhere in the state, regardless of the county of residency. One of the individuals that anticipated the potential loss of revenue via title fees for small counties like Jackson, Michael explained, was the first of the three Roberts to be honored during the ceremony.

“From what I’ve been told and the indications I’ve seen through records, Robert (Bob) Hughes was Clerk in 1992, and he could see this coming,” he said. “He instantly went to his local dealers and banks and said, ‘we can’t lose business, we have to figure out a way for you to send business to us.’ He started fostering those relationships.”

Hughes, whose family was represented at the ceremony by Doug, Brennen, and Kim Hughes, unfortunately passed away while in office. Michael explained that he was preceded as Clerk of Courts by the late Robert (Bob) Walton, the second of the three Roberts honored during the ceremony, who around a decade after the implementation of cross-county titling, became the local Deputy Registrar over the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

“Because the small counties lost so much money from cross-county titling, that was one way for him (Walton) to get that money back,” Michael said. “That money, between Bob Hughes’s steps clear to Bob Walton’s steps as Deputy Registrar, has left us now with a Title Administration Fund that has a significant amount of money that flows through it.”

He explained further that this funding does have limitations with regard to how it is able to be used but said officials can declare surpluses and undertake permanent improvements, like the construction of the records storage facility, that the General Fund may not be able to afford.

Michael said a significant portion of the Jackson County Courthouse roof was paid for from the Title Administration Fund, as was the installation of new windows and repair work to the steps and the parking lot at the Courthouse.

“A lot of the significant permanent improvements you’ve seen over the years have either been paid for in cooperation with the Clerk’s office and the Commissioners, or at least a significant portion came from that fund,” he explained.

With all of that in mind, Michael said he, Haller and the others involved in the project felt it was fitting to honor former Clerks of Court Hughes and Walton when naming the new records facility. He then noted the third Robert to be honored during the ceremony, local historian Robert Ervin.

“I remember in August 2007 when I first came into office, within a week, I had this gentleman (Ervin) in my office,” he recalled. “He wanted to chat and share some of his concerns. I said, ‘we’re going to take this seriously,’ and I know there have been some pauses at times where even I felt like ‘this is probably never going to happen,’ but a few years ago, it started to get more talk and we looked at what we could really do. I don’t feel like this building would have ever been built without the three different Roberts.”

Prior to unveiling the site’s plaque, which was crafted by the Southern Ohio Monument Company, and which names the facility the “Roberts’ Records Building” in memory of the late former Clerks of Court and Ervin, Commissioner Haller extended thanks to Randy Evans Construction and to Jon Stevison of the Athens-based RVC Architects, for bringing the site to life. Haller also noted the efforts of former longtime Jackson County Commissioner Ed Armstrong, who was in office when the idea was put together.

Regarding Ervin, Commissioner Haller touted his efforts in recording the county’s history via the numerous books he has penned over the years, copies of which he said he and fellow Commissioner Jon Hensler and Donnie Willis keep in their office and refer to often.

Overall, Haller told The Telegram that the new Roberts’ Records Building represents a great partnership between the Board of Commissioners and Clerk of Courts Michael and his office. A total of three semi-trailers are currently sitting outside the new facility full of county records, which will soon be placed inside the secure, temperature-controlled building.

“This building will house our county records and history for decades to come,” he said.