With fewer title bureaus than similar-size counties, Summit officials are shopping on the west side of the county for a third branch location.

Title bureaus handle the ownership portion of a vehicle — titles and bank-lien documentation on cars, trucks, trailers, motorcycles and other vehicles. License plates are handled by separate Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices.

The county’s main title office is in Akron on Tallmadge Avenue. Its two branches are in Green and Northfield, along the I-77/state Route 8 corridor that cuts through Summit.

“I’ve always thought we may be a hair underserved on the western side, just because of where our customers are and where traffic is,” Summit County Clerk of Courts Dan Horrigan said.

Summit is the fourth-largest county in the state and has the second-busiest title bureau. Montgomery County, almost equal in size, has five locations; Lucas County, which has about 100,000 fewer residents, has four sites.

“I look at the demographics and I look at the number of people that we have in the county and what I think it can support and other counties that have similar numbers,” Horrigan said. “Lucas and Montgomery are probably the two closest ... and we do more titles than each, and both of them have more locations.”

He said the county has looked at the outside of some locations and has talked to landlords.

“I’d like to stay on Market Street if I could, but I don’t want to box us in, either,” Horrigan said. “You want to make it easier for the customer. Our initial stages of looking are in the farther west/middle portion of the county.”

He said that while one of the major considerations will be the cost per square foot, the more expensive Fairlawn area is appealing because there is a BMV deputy registrar there.

“This would be very advantageous for the customer,” he said, “... and I think the BMV likes that also. In Tallmadge and Northfield, they are connected by a hallway. It just makes it easier for the customer, which is our entire goal.”

The Northfield office is off state Route 8 near the Cuyahoga County line.

The Green office, off Massillon Road north of I-77, is the only location without a nearby BMV office. The closest are in the Ellet area of Akron and in Jackson Township in Stark County.

“We like both of our branches,” Horrigan said. “They are very similar in size, about 1,500 square feet, both in plazas, right off main roads, close to the expressway, close to a large number of dealers, each has a staff of five and you don’t have to pay for parking.”

Horrigan said more people are coming to Summit County to do their title work.

“You can buy titles anywhere, so if you can go anywhere and get the same thing for the exact same price, I think our customer service sets us apart.”

Horrigan said a Fairlawn-area location would keep Summit’s revenue base and could draw customers from the eastern portion of Medina County.

The Clerk of Courts Office has generated excess revenue of $1 million annually, which goes back into the county budget.

“We have made a lot of changes improving efficiency and improving service and, budget-wise, we have been able to grow with all of our services, including adding passport services at the title bureaus in 2007,” Horrigan said.

Asked if there could more offices after expansion west, he said, “I want to get this one first ... There is a right size and a wrong size. I think we’re just one location from almost being the perfect size.”

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller@thebeaconjournal.com.