The auxiliary building on the Albany County Courthouse’s east side will have a new tenant this year.
That building, which the county clerk’s office uses to host early voting and process election results, will be used by contractor ArcaSearch to begin digitizing more than a century’s worth of county records.
County commissioners approved a five-year, $701,985 deal in April to have ArcaSearch begin photographing all records from 1865 to 1997. The records will then be hosted online and readily available to the public for a fee. The Minnesota-based company has digitized records in 13 other Wyoming counties.
In total, the project will produce 948,630 images.
“This will provide a win-win for the county and for the public that we serve, most importantly for the title companies, the attorneys and for the general public — they will have access to these documents 24/7,” Clerk Jackie Gonzales told commissioners last month.
Gonzales said ArcaSearch is scheduled to begin their work immediately following Memorial Day.
During election years, Gonzales’s staff typically occupies the auxiliary building from July to November. ArcaSearch will temporarily vacate the building during those times.
The county plans to pay for initial work this fiscal year using $60,000 from its Capitol Improvements and Special Projects fund, and commissioners will need budget $160,496 each year for the next four years.
When Gonzales first proposed the project at the county board’s March 5 meeting, Commissioner Pete Gosar originally requested a competitive bid process.
After she conducted more research, Gonzales told the commissioners that no one else besides ArcaSearch would be able to do the job.
“ArcaSearch was the only vendor that met the requirements — digitally preserving all of the documents to look like the original document,” she said.
The only other vendor that performs similar work — Tyler Technologies — doesn’t produce records in color and would require the county to re-index its records.
“Tyler works well with electronic files, but they don’t provide the quality for historical analogue documents that I’m trying to preserve,” Gonzales said.
The county’s records to be digitized include subdivision, tract index, deed index-grantor, deed indexes, deed records, and other various records.
County clerks in Wyoming are required to maintain an enormous database for county records. As Albany County pursues digitization, Gonzales is hoping legislators will take action to make it more affordable for counties to properly preserve their records.
“I’m hoping that we can talk to our Albany County legislators to propose legislation that the county can start building a fund for the future, not only for the counties, but for the state of Wyoming to allow for an additional fees — whether it’s 25 cents or a dollar — so that we can continue to preserve these documents in perpetuity as we’re required,” she said.