SCAN STORE RETRIEVE INDEX INTEGRATE ARCHIVE
County Officials, You Get What You Pay For…
I read another interesting article today about financial “assistance” being provided to a local county via a title company through the funding of land records books being scanned “at no charge” to the county.
Trumbull County Ohio, recently benefiting from the discovery of the Marcellus Shale, has been inundated with land records researchers from drillers and many other oil and gas related businesses. Much of the information necessary to accurately research the mineral rights and true ownership of land prior to oil and gas exploration is found in land records books at the local County Clerks office.
Because there is usually only 1 or maybe 2 copies of the information available for viewing at a single time, searching through these books can be very time-consuming and frustrating for these researchers. By scanning or converting these volumes to digital copies, many users can access the same books at the same time. Additionally, with the proper software, Counties can give remote (internet) access for the records with the option exporting large volumes of this information digitally when requested.
With this said, why should a county be sceptical when an oil company or title company benevolently offers to scan these public records books for free?; First off, the oil and/or title company will expect to keep a copy of the scanned records at no charge to that company.
Usually a county will collect print fees for these images when printed in the county office. There is no difference when users access these images online. With the proper software, users will pay equal fees for receiving digital copies of the information. By allowing a company to keep these records, now the county has given away a revenue source. These companies will most likely send the images over-seas to a processing center to have them indexed and placed online for sale to other prospective users.
The county will still be required to either pay-for or process internally, the indexing required to make these records useful to researchers. Who will cover this cost? The oil and/or title company will have these records indexed and available long before the county will have these processed. This will cost the county a great deal of revenue.
Most likely the county will be handed CDs or DVDs with hundreds, thousands or maybe millions of images of land records. Who will take the time to confirm that all pages for each book and each instrument are present and legible.
And what about image quality, processing Photostats and etc..? The county will still have an enormous amount of work (cost) remaining before these instruments will be ready for public consumption. Meanwhile, the oil and/or title companies are collecting revenues for these records.
Personal Identifying Information Security
Most of these companies use off-shore businesses to process these records. Did the county confirm that these records will not be shipped off-shore? And what about the security of Social Security Numbers, DLs, Bank and Credit Card Numbers..? Will these companies guarantee that these records will be redacted properly prior to selling to anyone who wants them? And were the records redacted prior to going over-seas? Who is responsible when someone’s identity is compromised?
While county governments must aggressively seek out ways to curb spending and get the most from their budgets, officials should evaluate the extent of their vulnerability with these partnerships.