Nearly $165,000 of Blount County’s allocation under the US Federal Bailout Act could be used to digitize property records, improving their preservation and accessibility.
The Blount County Commission is due to vote next week on the Phyllis Crisp Deeds Registry’s proposal to use ARPA money to digitize and index registers and hanging maps, some of which date back to the early 1800s.
Having records online would allow staff to work remotely if necessary and reduce public traffic in the office, a concern during the pandemic. At one point, Crisp only had half his staff in the office at a time and only allowed one visitor at a time, with no one in the vault.
At the same time, she notes, “things haven’t slowed down for us,” with a high volume of real estate transactions.
Crisp said she learned that ARPA funds could be used to digitize documents at a meeting of the Tennessee County Officials Association in Chattanooga last November. She hopes to use the same company that recently completed a similar project in Knox County, US Imaging Inc. of Saginaw, Michigan.
The company does the work on site, so there’s no need to move the documents, and image-enhancing technology can make copies more readable than the original. The company would have staff working around the clock on the job, which could be completed within a month.
The new scans would integrate with ProGResS software that the office started using in 2004, which also backs up data.
“I was worried about my books,” Crisp said, referring to large proceedings books dating back to the early 1800s. On some, the binding and tabs show wear, and the simple binding of a volume can cost around $3,200.
The plastic sleeves of an 1980s transport book are sticking together and need to be peeled off, and on hanging cards the paper is yellowing.
Scanning the documents, she said, “It’s better to preserve what we have.
Crisp prides itself on being thrifty in the office and returning unspent money to the county at the end of the fiscal year.
“It’s a dream come true for this office,” she said of the possibility of using federal funding to make everything in the vault digitized and available online.