A new award-winning software program has made recording legal documents in Richland County, S.C., easier and is saving citizens money and time, according to local officials.

Designed by the county’s IT department, the Web-based Register of Deed e-Recording System has increased efficiency at the county’s Register of Deeds office (ROD) by reducing on-site foot traffic and streamlining the document filing process.

Instead of trekking into the office, people can record their documents online. The county estimates the change will save constituents a total of roughly $174,000 per year.

Janet Claggett, CIO of Richland County, explained that ROD handles approximately 150,000 transactions annually in which citizens, attorneys, abstractors and title company personnel come to the county office to file documents and pay fees. By taking the process online, citizens now have the ability to record documents any time they wish, saving both money and time.

“I had the opportunity to chat with one of the managers at our deeds office and she said that [it] has become almost deserted since we went live,” Claggett said in an e-mail to Government Technology. “Their foot traffic used to be heavy, but those days are gone.”

To calculate the savings, the county stayed conservative, estimating only 75,000 transactions each year and averaging the savings based on gas price, mileage and parking costs.

The county went live with the program in December 2010 and created e-recording software using a federal stimulus grant for “green” projects. Claggett added that online recordings haven grown quickly since the program went live and estimates that in time, the county should see 80 to 90 percent of all documents being filed online.

In addition to the savings Richland County residents are realizing from the e-recording program, ROD is seeing benefits as well. Claggett said the office has seen improvements in efficiency and accuracy in the county’s document collection and filing process.

Local Praise and Future Projects

The Register of Deed e-Recording System’s success has been noticed locally. The program won a 2011 Palmetto Pillar Award, capturing first place in the category of “Custom Application Development.” The annual awards program, hosted by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Information Technology Council (ITC) was held last week.

The event, which honors the area’s top leaders in technology innovation, started in 2000. Projects honored this year ranged from startup ventures to public-service technology projects. The ITC also provided two scholarships to college IT students.

Despite its success, Richland County isn’t resting on its laurels. Claggett said the county has two other custom software projects in progress. One of the efforts is a four-county collaboration to write custom software for a computer-aided mass appraisal (CAMA) system used by county assessors. Another is a system management system that is used by Richland County’s Premiere Online Data Services.

Although it’s the lead county on the CAMA system project, Richland County will go live last, according to Claggett. She said “it may sound counterintuitive, but we have to stay with the project” until it’s fully operable.

The first county should go live with the software in December, with others to follow in 2012. Claggett added that Richland County was an early adopter of the “agile” methodology of software development, where projects are done in incremental stages using cross-functional teams and it has been successful for those involved on the project.

“The four county assessors participate in viewing demos of actual working code every 10 days,” Claggett said. “It is amazing to see four jurisdictions collaborate and harmonize so well, but the four assessors seem to love this project.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.