In Putnam County, W.Va., deeds and other public documents are now just a point-and-click away.
The county launched an online portal that enables residents and researches to access public records at any time, instead of trekking down to the county clerk’s office during business hours. The new depository was launched in February and serves as a digital backup of Putnam County records in case of emergency.
In addition to improving ease of access to information for residents, Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood told Government Technology that the new portal was created to ease pressure on the county’s record room, and reduce wear and tear on hard copy documents. He added that the county has tried to redact all Social Security numbers on any of the materials posted online.
Putnam County partnered with Cott Systems, a Columbus, Ohio-based company on the new system. A 36-month contract with the vendor includes print management, online index books software – which manages indexes and associated documents prior to 1992, database software for records from 1992 to present, the Web portal, and virtual help desk.
The West Virgina County Clerk Portal is shared among three counties. It also contains the data from Boone County and Logan County.
Wood revealed that he’s been working on digitizing county documents since he became clerk 10 years ago. He noted that records are just one of numerous roles county clerks in West Virginia are responsible for. Clerks are also in charge of payroll, bookkeeping, elections and other duties.
“I have tried to identify projects that both preserve documents and could later be used to establish an online presence,” Wood said. “Due to so much data and little time and money, it has taken me longer than I would have liked.”
The online system also serves as a new revenue stream for the county. If a searcher needs to print an image, they can do so at a rate of $1.50 per page for the first two pages and $1 per page thereafter. The funds go toward maintaining the software, according to a county press release.
Some of the documents not present on the system are images of birth and death certificates. Because only certain people are allowed by law to view such documents, people seeking copies must still visit the clerk’s office to obtain them.
Wood added that he and his staff will continue to “chip away” at putting older records online. The current online repository goes back to 1962.
“We will move forward as time and money permits,” Wood said. “The ultimate goal is to have all of our deed books scanned and linked by book and page … then look to other areas in the record room that need attention.”