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County hopes building will ease space crunch

July 09, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Filing cabinets in Franklin County Controller Carol Fix Diller's office are topped with cardboard boxes filled with more documents, a crush of paper that will be relieved somewhat when the office moves to a new location later this month.

"We don't even have room for this year's records," said accounting specialist Mary Clites.

The office is moving to the county's Administration Annex at 218 N. Second St.

With offices and county storage space barely able to contain a growing mountain of documents, county government is looking at developing a records management system that would make use of a recently purchased building next to the courthouse.

"The county purchased the building for potential future expansion," Assistant County Administrator Kelly A. Livermore said of the three-story building at 173 Lincoln Way East. "Short-term, we're looking at records management."

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The county has applied for a $15,000 Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission grant to help fund a position for a project archivist. The grant application includes $19,000 in matching funds from the county, Livermore said.

The archivist would begin the process of developing a plan to preserve, catalog and manage county records, Livermore said.

Livermore said the building the county purchased in February for $185,000 will not be used primarily as a records repository, but as a "staging area" for the archivist.

"We need someone to come in and show us how to create that library," County Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said.

"You're talking 200 years of stuff," Plummer said of the records. Livermore said the courthouse basement, garages and buildings on Franklin Farm Lane are being used for records storage.

The paperless office that was supposed to be ushered in by the computer age never materialized, but some offices are moving toward modern records management, Plummer said. The Commissioners Office now scans onto laser disc nearly every document that comes in and some older records are being transferred.

"We have board minutes back to 1944 on disc," Plummer said.

Those scanned documents can now be e-mailed directly to other county offices, rather than laboriously printing and distributing copies, according to Plummer.

One problem is determining what paper records can be destroyed after scanning and which must, by state law, be preserved.

Since last year, Register and Recorder Linda Miller's office has been scanning documents and is no longer required to maintain hard copies of deeds and mortgages. Still, her office has rows of shelves filled with bound copies of deeds and mortgages from years past.

Miller said she would like to eliminate those, but does not have the personnel to scan several hundred thousand pages of documents.

New office records are transferred electronically to a contractor and put on disc, but state law requires those records also be put on microfilm, which Miller said she considers outdated. Her office rents space for the film from a Boyers, Pa., company that stores archival records in mountain vaults, she said.

Livermore said a facilities committee is assessing what must be done to make the building's first floor handicapped accessible and equip it for records processing. The committee is also looking at how the rest of the 4,213-square-foot building can be utilized.

The purchase did immediately help ease one other county space constraint. It came with 19 badly-needed parking spaces, Livermore said.

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