Almost 78 percent of Ohio's 88 counties (in red) have voter registration systems serviced by Triad Governmental Services. Richland County will become the 69th county in the state to change to the provider, a change approved by county commissioners on Tuesday. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $89,400 for a new county voter registration system vendor, the first such change since 2004.

The change to Triad Governmental Systems will be a benefit to county residents and candidates through increased and easier access to constantly updated information, according to local elections officials.

For example, voters can complete and print out an absentee ballot application, which can then be mailed into the elections board. Local campaign finance reports will be available, as would database searches of registered voters, down to the precinct and individual voter level.

It would also benefit local board of elections workers, according to Matt Finfgeld, director of the elections board, and Jane Zimmerman, deputy director, who told commissioners the new registration system would not impact the voter tabulation software currently being used.

The two elections officials, along with a representative from Triad, met with commissioners on July 6, promising to return with a price quote after the county elections board approved the change, which was done later that same day.

Finfgeld told commissioners on Tuesday that Triad will charge an annual fee of $22,650, which is $8,000 less than charged by the current vendor, ES&S.

"The annual fee from ES&S goes up every year," Fingeld said, adding the Triad representative with whom they have worked indicated his company had only increased its annual fees three times in the 20 years he has worked for it.

In addition to lower annual fees, Zimmerman also pointed to reduced manpower usage with requests from the public.

"Sometimes the public may ask for something that takes a day to get done," she said. "(With the Triad system), they can look it up themselves online."

Commissioner Tony Vero labeled the change a "no brainer."

The approval will allow Triad to begin work now with the goal of having the new system online by January 2022, which is when the county would be billed for the project.

The bipartisan local elections leaders told commissioners on July 6 that 68 of Ohio's 88 counties have converted to the Xenia-based provider. Richland County will become the 69th, joining the likes of Ashland and Knox counties. The new vendor and system would not have any effect on the actual processes residents use to become registered voters.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners approved a request from Mansfield city engineer Bob Bianchi to donate temporary right-of-way permission for one small section and a permanent right-of-way for another smaller section of county-owned land to allow for the replacement of a large culvert along east East Third Street.

Bianchi said a $3.5 million project is being planned to replace 900 feet of culvert, some of it 100 years old, a pre-cast concrete pipe with a brick base, from Ritters Run to Junction Street. He said the culvert is 15 feet wide and is buried about eight feet deep.

Mansfield City Council in December 2018 approved a contract for engineering design services for the work.

Bianchi said that design work was complete and said he hoped for up to $500,000 from an Ohio Public Works Commission grant to help pay for the construction project itself, which must first be approved by City Council.

The work would likely be done in 2022.

Also Tuesday, commissioners:

-- approved a $25,000 request by Treasurer Bart Hamilton to purchase a used vehicle for the Land Bank. The money to replace an existing worn vehicle will come from the treasurer's delinquent property tax fund and no general fund money will be used, commissioners said.

-- approved the renewal of the county's membership in the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

-- approved a request for a "Silent Watch" on the courthouse lawn on Sept. 11 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack. A flag-draped coffin will be placed on the lawn with at least one person standing guard over it throughout the day. The effort is meant to draw attention to the problem of suicides by first responders and military members, Commissioner Darrell Banks said.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"