Even county officials learned a bit about work in other offices when they took time Tuesday, April 7, to talk to a group of researchers seeking to learn more about what's where in the Jackson County Courthouse at Brownstown.
The researchers visited the newly re-organized basement and attic record-storage areas that hold the history of individuals and of Jackson County. Talking with the visitors in the JCPl-sponsored visit were Treasurer Kathy Hohenstreiter, Assessor Bev Gaiter, Recorder Traci Hubbard, Auditor Debra Eggeman, and Clerk Sarah Benter.
As Sarah Benter and others pointed out, the number of records is growing and growing and growing. While some are expendable after a few years, many are important to the long-term orderly operation of the county -- tracking transfer of property and decisions in lawsuits, recording marriages and divorces, telling the tales of convicted criminals, and listing names and relationships for those fortunate enough to locate an ancestor who named offspring and collaterals in a will.
The basement storage areas have some new filing cabinets that make for more orderly access to more recent files and will get better as the Clerk reaches her goal of re-organizing to make more room. As makes sense, the most frequently used and most recent records are kept in the Clerk's office. Other office holders do the same and have some older records in various storage areas. All agree that records are fast filling available space.
A few of the clerk's less-lused books from the basement have been moved to the attic where confidential records of the court and the prosecuting attorney are kept. Those books of the clerk's office still are public records and can be access through advance arrangements.
But in a few years the space will be gone again and officials already need to be thinking about where more space will be made. Other records need to be moved from the current storage where they are exposed to heat, cold, humidity, and possible pests (and in some cases damage and theft) to safer storage.
It's up to those of us who want the records to survive in usable form to let the county commissioners and council members know that safekeeping of those records now needs the consideration that already and continually is given to paving roads, housing prisoners and dump trucks, and reviewing other matters over which they exercise home rule.
Does anyone have thoughts on how protecting those records may be accomplished in the environment that always will be competing with "more urgent" projects the commissioners consider more important?