By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel says the cost to repair records damaged by last Wednesday’s downtown flooding will be at least $200,000.
Furthermore, the flooding, which occurred in the basements of the county-owned Stone Building on Courthouse Square and Wean Building nearby on North Park Avenue, indicates that new storage facilities nearby need to be found.
“It’s a problem. The cost is out of sight,” said Commissioner Frank Fuda. “We’ve got to find a new way.”
“This is so bad; we can’t risk it again,” Heltzel said of records getting wet again in either of the basements.
Workers from the company Underground Archives of Wampum, Pa., came to Warren on Monday and began to remove hundreds of books worth of records — some of them dating back to about 200 years ago.
The records will be freeze dried and sanitized, then allowed to slowly dry out. At the end of the process, they will be returned, but Heltzel and Fuda said they’re not sure where they should be stored when they come back.
The commissioners have looked for a building that could be used to provide storage space, “but it has to be accessible to the downtown,” Heltzel said, and that’s been hard to find.
Heltzel and Fuda said some water gets into the basements at the two locations from time to time, but it’s been 10 years since this much flooding has occurred.
As much as 18 inches got into the basement of the Stone Building, which holds deeds, probate records and some criminal case files.
On Monday, workers threw away various types of electronic equipment that got wet. Wet records from the Wean Building also were being removed for restoration.
James Keating, county human resources director, said the insurance that covers flood damage of this type has a $5,000 deductible for each building.
Heltzel said the damage also reinforces the importance of scanning the county’s records and storing them digitally so they will be available for use no matter what happens in the future.
As for the historical aspects of the original paper records, Heltzel said he believes they have value and should be preserved where possible.
He believes there will be some paper documents that won’t need to be restored and kept, but county Recorder Diana Marchese will be responsible for deciding which ones are no longer needed.