Court provides $3,000 for county records preservation

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By Dave Taylor

The Carroll County clerk’s office will soon have new equipment dedicated to copying and preserving county records.

Once the conversion process is completed, county residents and descendants of past residents will be able to continue to research important records and papers documenting the county’s past—including old court and property records, marriage licenses, birth and death records and other important papers—even if the original documents are lost, damaged or destroyed.

On July 27, Carroll County Fiscal Court approved a request by Carroll County Clerk Alice Marsh to supplement Marsh’s budget for equipment purchases for the clerk’s office. The court approved an expenditure of $3,000 from the county’s general fund to help toward the purchase of a new computer, scanner and software for use in preserving county records dating back to when the territory that is now Carroll County was still a part of Gallatin and Trimble counties.

“We have record books going back to 1832,” Marsh told the court. “I have approximately 300 books that are not safe, meaning that they are not microfilmed. They are not scanned. They are not protected. If, heaven forbid, the courthouse burned tonight or anything unforseen happened, they’re gone. They are not records that can be recreated.”

Marsh alluded to the May 20, 2009 fire that heavily damaged the Jefferson County Courthouse in Madison. Many important records and papers documenting the county’s past, including old court and property records, marriage licenses, birth and death records as well as legal evidence were damaged by thousands of gallons of water poured on the building to extinguish the blaze.

Marsh told the court that she had researched the expense involved in preserving Carroll’s records because she was aware of a Local Records Grant Program available through the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

“This grant we looked at originally was for microfilming and scanning, and the one bid I got was over $54,000. The other bid that I got was over $90,000,” Marsh said. “Obviously, Library and Archives is not going to give me that kind of money to do that much with.”

Marsh stepped back and looked at leasing the equipment and securing a KDLA grant that would pay the salary of a part-time employee for back file conversion. The grant has been approved for the salary, she said. The grant provides salary for a year-long file conversion project.

“My only drawback to this is the equipment right now,” Marsh told the court. “This year I budgeted $2,400 for equipment purchases. The original bid that they gave me to lease the equipment for a year was $6,360.”

At the end of the year the equipment—computer, scanner and software—would have to be returned, “and I would have nothing left,” she said. “To purchase the station which means I would rent the scanner and buy the computer is again $6,360. At the end I would have a computer but no scanner which I can do anything with.”

Another option, Marsh said, would be to purchase the scanner, computer and the software at a cost of $5,133. That would give her office an additional station that can continue to be used in the future. If Marsh leased the equipment $530 would be added to a $1,000 monthly maintenance fee already being paid on existing equipment in the office. If she purchased the equipment the monthly maintenance fee would be $250 plus the existing $1,000 monthly charge. The additional $250 charge would not take effect for another year.

Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson asked if the purchase is made, “is that something on down the road that somebody could get back on that system and continue to work on to protect the records?”

Marsh assured him that the process would be ongoing.

“What we will be doing is microfilming everything which will be kept in Frankfort,” she said.

“We started out talking about a grant,” Magistrate Dean Miller said. “How did we get to buying stuff?”

Marsh explained that the grant would only cover the cost of the salary for the person that is doing the work. The grant would cover no employee benefits, vacation time or insurance. The person hired would be working about 20 hours a week and would be paid $10 per hour.

“How is your business down there compared to two years ago?” Miller asked. “I’m getting a lot of complaints from the public that you’re not very busy. Then you’re telling me to hire another person.”

Marsh reiterated that county money would not be used to pay the part-time employee, and explained that her employees could not take on the additional work of converting files under the KDLA program. The $16,500 grant is for salary only.

“She’s asking the court for $3,000 out of our money to make this acquisition,” Tomlinson said.

“If she’s asking for it to come out of the general fund, I’d say no,” Magistrate Mark Bates said.

“That’s one of the duties that the courthouse has is to preserve these records,” Tomlinson reminded the magistrates. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

“I think the record keeping is very important. At this point I’ll make a motion that we go ahead and spend the $3,000,” Tomlinson said.

The court voted unanimously in approval.