County looks at how to pay for digitizing historic records

Muir reluctant to return to the Grow Greene County “trough”

The Greene County supervisors in 2017 carried out a highly visible historical preservation project with the restoration of the stained glass dome over the rotunda at the courthouse.
They’ve committed to another preservation project – perhaps equally as significant – but not nearly as visible for 2018.

At the urging of county recorder Marcia Tasler, the supervisors committed by nodding heads Dec. 27 to spending $100,000 to digitize old county records. Where the money will come from is still unknown.

A grant was written for Grow Greene County funding for the stained glass restoration. The grant netted $55,000 for the $110,000 project. The remaining came from the county’s general fund.

Greene County conservation received $124,000 in funds for crossings on the Raccoon River Valley Trail in 2016, the first year Grow Greene County distributed grant funds.

John Muir, chair of the board of supervisors, said he doesn’t want it to look like the county repeatedly “goes to the trough” for Grow Greene County money.

According to Tasler, she’s talked with county recorders in other gaming counties and they’ve used casino funds to digitize records. She was unsure if they used grant funds or the portion of gaming proceeds the county receives automatically.

“We’ve just put that into the general fund, but there may come a time we need to do something different with it,” Muir said.

“It goes for tax relief. It’s paying for county services,” auditor Jane Heun added.

The supervisors have also talked about accessing Grow Greene County funds for replacing the elevator in the county-owned Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower. They’ve asked the Bell Tower Community Foundation to prepare and submit that application.

The supervisors don’t dispute the need to digitize records. Records since 1988 are already digital. All earlier records, some older than 100 years, are still hard copy. They’re stored in vaults in the recorder’s and auditor’s office. The recorder’s records are accessed frequently as attorneys and abstractors search and update land records. “Those books are showing wear and they can’t be replaced,” Tasler said.

Digitizing records would make them more easily accessible, as they could be available on the internet.

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