Good news for the big, musty books in the courthouse basement – Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — Help is on the way for 362,880 pages that make up the 567 large, old deed books, mortgage books, and other bound volumes that have been kept in the basement of the Becker County Recorder’s Office for decades.

County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to spend just over $235,000 to digitize these large books — a project that will complete a decade-long, occasional digitization effort at the Becker County Recorder’s Office.

The work is supported by Information Systems Corp. which has offices in Fargo and Minneapolis and currently serves approximately 50 counties in Minnesota including Clay, Hubbard and Wadena.

The money will come from the $6 million federal American Rescue Plan Act allocated to Becker County.

“We think it’s a great ARPA project,” said District Administrator Pat Oman.

While Tuesday’s board action was a win for Becker County Recorder Susan Syvertson, other department heads weren’t so lucky.

The Commissioners did not respond to requests from the County Assessor’s Office and the Planning and Zoning Department to have some of their paper and microfiche records digitized by the ISC.

The Assessor’s Office has 240,000 pages and nearly 19,000 images in microfiche envelopes that it wants to have prepared, indexed, scanned and digitized for $123,664.

“These are records that go back to the 1950s and 1960s,” Assessor Lisa Will told the commissioners. “If they are not kept by the county, they have to go to the state archives.”

At the Oct. 4 meeting, Will noted that her office has files on “old property values ​​dating back to the dawn of time,” adding that those old documents are available in the event of a courthouse fire or water damage from sprinklers used for firefighting “are the sole copy and cannot be substituted.”

At the same meeting, Commissioner Barry Nelson said: “I’m a little shocked at the price – half a million dollars. I don’t support it at the moment, I need more information.”

The Planning and Zoning Office has 14,000 files totaling 420,000 pages that they want to prepare, index, scan and digitize for $75,600.

Sewage system files, in particular, are widely used and would benefit from digitization, said planning and zoning administrator Kyle Vareberg. “We are missing files now,” he told the board. “We don’t know if we’ll ever find them — they’re transmitted among people.” Digitization would create secure, permanent records, he said.

His father, Commissioner Richard Vareberg, owns an excavation company and agreed that digitization would help.

“It’s a big deal for me to be able to just go online instead of calling or driving there (to the courthouse),” he said.

The County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office also has 11 books totaling 7,040 pages of old handwritten county board minutes to be digitized and preserved for about $4,700. The commissioners have previously expressed their support for this small project, but it was not included in the motion passed on Tuesday.

The County Human Services Department also has records it would like to digitize, but this need was addressed late in the process and was not included in the proposal submitted by ISC.

In addition to the scanning work, the company also suggested that the county purchase ISC information management software “to meet digital document storage needs for all departments.” The company says the system is used by a number of Minnesota counties and allows 10 county users to log in at the same time with no user restrictions.

The cost of the ISC software, installation and training is $23,462. There’s also an annual maintenance fee of around $5,120.

The total proposal would have been about $468,000 if accepted.

“I’m not sure it’s worth the $470,000” to do digitization work beyond the Recorder’s Office, Commissioner Ben Grimsley said.

Commissioner Nelson also had concerns about the cost and access to the digitized records. “If you’re going to spend that much money, you have to find a way for the public to use it within reason,” he said.

“Most of the counties in the area have already done so,” said Syvertson, the county clerk. Recorder’s Office’s software is set up to make information easy to find online, she said.

At the October 4 district board meeting, the decision was postponed until more information was provided to the commissioners.

On Tuesday, Grimsley said information about how the proposal would benefit taxpayers had not been provided by the county council. “You saw the email,” he said to Nelson. “We haven’t received an explanation yet. I think we need to sit down with the department heads and discuss it.”

At that point, Syvertson asked the board to approve only the digitization proposal for the Recorder’s Office, which had been working on digitization for years. The Board agreed and unanimously approved the proposal for the Secretary’s office.

In its proposal, ISC said the transition process will take six to nine months. The large books are shipped mostly in batches to ISC’s conversion center in Fargo.

“We will safely transport your books/records to our conversion center and have them shipped back the following week,” the company said in its proposal. “We will only look at what we can rebuild in a timely manner.” If a record is needed that is in the company’s possession, it will “scan the document and email it to the requesting department within two hours.”

Most of the Recorder’s Office books are microfilmed, but those that are not are converted at the courthouse and not transported to Fargo.


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