Road gridlock isn't the only result of growth in Columbia County.
Just ask Cindy Mason, whose clerk of court office is running out of room for court and real estate records unless more shelves are added.
Even then, the extra shelving might buy only a few more years of storage space.
"I can probably buy myself about three more years with the (additional) shelving," said Mason, the county's clerk of court. "But between now and the next three years, I have got to get completely automated with my old records."
Four years ago, Mason's office was moved from a smaller location in the old Appling courthouse to a larger one in the new Evans courthouse. She says her office is now overrun with property deeds, title information and civil, juvenile and superior court records.
If storage does eventually run out for such records, she said that could lead to delays in closing home loans, car titles and other services processed through her office, and it make researching those documents difficult, she said.
"Everything in this office has to be retrievable" for the public, she said. If documents had to be stored off-site, records searches could take longer, which could even affect court proceedings.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said the courthouse was designed to accomodate records with overflow capacity available in a nearby county warehouse. He said he was unaware of any storage shortages in Mason's office.
Mason said the cause is primarily the result of increasing subdivisions of property and rapid property sales that force her office to print about five 300-page deed books a day. In a month's time, that covers three 6-foot-by-2-foot shelves.
"Three shelves is a month, and if you calculate the space, we'll be out of space this (coming) year," she said. Mason said the ultimate solution is to transfer all real estate documents to compact discs.
Real estate records that go back to 1993 are already accessible on computer, and all documents processed through her office since 2001 are saved both digitally and in print form.
Currently, the Clerk of Court houses most records in the basement of the Evans courthouse on 7-foot-tall rolling shelves.
In that basement sits the sole copies of more than 200 years of court proceedings and real estate records documenting the county's history, Mason said.
Copying that data to disc could help preserve it, make the documents easily accessible to the public and give the county vital duplicates to its historical records, many of which are quite delicate, she said.
"They're our history of Columbia County from when Columbia County started," she said.
Mason said scanning the real estate documents would likely cost about $800,000 through a vendor and at least $1 million to $2 million to scan all court documents. Some of that cost could be defrayed through grants, she said.
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