New Butler County title office opening in Monroe

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

Inflation threw a monkey wrench into the Butler County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain’s project to reopen a title location in the northern reaches of the county but the new Monroe location will finally open on Monday.

Swain had hoped to open the new title office in June at the Kroger plaza on Ohio 63, but bloated bids ruined that opening date. She put out requests to bid the project twice but the bids came in more than 10% over architect estimates. For the second bid the estimate was $161,000 and the only bid came in at $195,200. She told the Journal-News inflation coupled with rampant supply chain issues have meant much higher bids.

“Inflation came up and slammed me upside the head,” Swain said. “The RFP and all that takes time and by the time we got it ready to go it really was painful.”

The commissioners ultimately approved a bid of $186,896 or $214,479 with contingencies. The final price is $198,795, to transform the former veterinary clinic into a title office, according to Chief Deputy Clerk Joe Statzer.

He said they needed to tear down walls, replace the ceiling tiles and floors and get rid of the pet smells “it had an odor that couldn’t be helped because it’s an animal hospital.”

Usually Swain likes to locate her title offices near the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles — drivers often need both services — but there is no state vehicle registration office in Monroe. They were granted a Limited Authority Deputy Registrar designation for the new office which allows them to help customers with out-of-state inspections and new vehicle tags.

ExploreInflation delays new title office for Middletown and Monroe

Swain transferred two management staff to the new location and hired three new people to man the office. Statzer said the new positions added $98,335 to the budget but the cost for renovation and staff came out of the title fund, not the county’s general fund.

Swain routinely returns about $1 million in excess title fee funds to the general fund and this year she forwarded $1.5 million and budgeted the same amount for next year.

The county has had a host of capital improvement projects this year after the commissioners approved a $5 million budget. County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News they haven’t been squeezed too badly by inflation “the county has not experienced anything as far as substantially increased costs so we couldn’t do the projects.”.

“To-date we have been very fortunate about materials and supplies in terms of consistent costing,” she said. “What we have seen is intermittent delays because of supply chain or wanting to get that part in or piece of equipment here, we’ve noticed that.”

The county commissioners approved the $163,200 five-year lease after a two-year hiatus. She had an office in Middletown for years and was hoping to relocate the Middletown office to another location in that area of the county when the current lease expired in July 2020. Then the pandemic descended, and after the county commissioners ordered 7.4% budget cuts over two years, she abandoned the plan.

She said she wanted to reopen the northern office for “customer convenience” because it is a hike to get to the other three offices in Fairfield, Hamilton and West Chester Twp. where vehicle titles and passports can be obtained.

The Fairfield and West Chester title offices are the busiest, generating 10,623 and 9,669 titles respectively in August. The Hamilton office issued 5,097 and the old Middletown location used to issue around 3,455 monthly. All of the offices combined issued 385 passports in August.

Also in the name of convenience, nearly four years ago Swain moved her title office out of the Government Services Center to a new location on the west side of Hamilton. The GSC location was closed on Saturdays and people had to pay to park.

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter, who is the former court clerk said she is glad Swain has reopened the northern office.

“It really is a good thing, we know there is a great need for the passport processing and that will be a convenience to the individuals living in that area,” Carpenter said. “The auto dealers will have the titling process quickly, it’s going to mean people who buy cars get their cars quicker and just better service all around.”

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