Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales is pushing county commissioners to create a financial plan to digitize the roughly 950,000 pages of records dating back to 1865 that she said are “basically the history of Albany County.”
Gonzales has worked with Arcasearch, a records digitization and hosting company, to estimate the county’s cost for a complete digitization.
Arcasearch President Chuck Miotke told commissioners Tuesday that it would cost about $700,000 for the full project.
Commissioner Pete Gosar suggested that the county board should consider bidding out the project rather than just hiring Arcasearch to complete the work.
However, Gonzales said Arcasearch seems to be the only company successfully doing the work in Wyoming that Albany County needs.
The Minnesota-based company has digitized records in 13 other Wyoming counties.
Miotke said that all records could be digitized in four years. If the records were hosted by Arcasearch — at a cost to the county of $6,000 a year — the records would be remotely searchable.
Gonzales said that would help reduce the considerable time her staff sometimes has to spend searching for records. It would also save money to members of the public who might otherwise need to travel to Laramie to find old property records, Commissioner Heber Richardson noted.
“What strikes me is the staggering amount of time that was spent to create the records and the work still being done to search the records,” he said.
Miotke said the county has 33,000 pages in its index books, 700,000 pages worth of microfilm, and 200,000 pages of deeds.
Gonzales and Miotke plan to bring a proposal to commissioners in the next month on how to begin the digitization process in the current fiscal year.
Commissioners appropriated $40,000 for Gonzales, if need be, to purchase new election equipment. That money is currently planned to go unspent and Gonzales said the money could instead be used to digitize the county’s index books — the records she said are handled most often and are in the most desperate need of preservation.
“We have the funds right now to do that phase of the project,” Gonzales said. “If we don’t start now, we’ll never start. There will be an excuse and there will be another project. I’m concerned about the preservation of the records and having that history.”
Gonzales said that, if she had planned for the digitization earlier, she might have asked for the digitization process to be a project funded by Albany County’s special purpose excise tax which was reapproved by voters in August.
The new tax, she said, might help to free up some of the county’s general fund dollars, which could in turn be spent on digitization.
Richardson noted that the county is required to keep enormous amounts of record at the whim of state statute. Since numerous other counties are pushing to digitize their records, Richardson said it would be nice if the Legislature appropriated funds for the digitization of all county and state records.