MOUNT VERNON — Once Knox County Commissioners took time at the beginning of their meeting Tuesday to approve the minutes of their prior meeting on April 4, those minutes went online immediately that afternoon on the county’s website, www.co.knox.oh.us. Internet users can easily find the commissioners page by going to the website homepage and clicking on the “Commissioners” tab.
In 2017, county commissioner agendas and meeting minutes were not posted online. But times have certainly changed over the last 16 months, and rapidly. Since January of 2018, Knox County government has made an “amazing” leap forward in digitizing its records, county Administrator Jason Booth said this week. They include providing the newest, most recently approved and up-to-date county commissioner records possible.
Those records are now offered online, with commissioner journals dating back to 1808, the year of the county’s founding, and forward to the present. It is quite a contrast to 2017 and all years prior, when county commissioner journal books were just that — commissioner records stored in large bound books . The county has plans to donate the journal books to the Knox County Historical Society later this year. That donation will happen because, in addition to wanting to provide the public with transparency about what commissioners do, they want to be good stewards of the records that are being kept. Providing the historical society with the original journals will help ensure that is the case.
Making county records as readily accessible as possible, with immediacy, is something Booth said he was directed to do when he was hired. “Initially, the commissioners wanted to see us have better transparency with the public and also to automate our processes internally to be more efficient,” he said.
The digitized county records, with multiple copies stored on microfilm, will provide research material for local historians. The first journal book of 1808, in cursive handwriting, details a cherry tree connected by dots to Fredericktown and other dot-connected points on a proposed map, that drew the county’s approved boundary lines. Just as it is now, it was three commissioners then who gave their approval on important matters of Knox County business.
The revamped website also features a Knox County Atlas circa 1896, with colored maps of all 22 townships, all six wards of Mount Vernon, and “miscellaneous” items such as an “Historical Sketch Overview of Knox County,” a Patron’s Business Directory of Knox County, and photos of Knox County.
County commissioner records were microfilmed over the course of more than a year by Cott Systems, using a microfilm developing process. Meanwhile, updating the county’s website with Granicus software was performed remotely, Booth said. The commissioners’ administrative assistant/clerk, Penny Doyle, has a desktop app that allows her to update meeting agendas — available to the public before meetings — and minutes as need. All she needs do is to click “publish.”
Booth demonstrated how, on the Agendas & Minutes page, to use the search bar in the upper right of the page to find documents. He typed in the word “contract,” and all of the contracts the commissioners have approved going back six years appear, in chronological descending order. The Granicus software can be adjusted to allow additional search terms to be added to make searching even more user-friendly, Booth said. For instance, in addition to “contract,” the word “resolution” could be added to allow all commissioner-passed resolutions in recent years to appear.