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Glades County Commission approves digitally preserving county property records

The county will contract with a Texas-based information management firm specializing in modernizing governments.

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MOORE HAVEN -- Imagine having at the tips of your fingers all the property information within Glades County from its sovereignty in 1921.

Copies of original county deeds, mortgages, liens, assignments could be accessed through your internet connection in a matter of moments.

No more trips to the county courthouse, spending hours searching through volumes of books or scrolling reels of microfiche films where information might be overlooked due to the sheer volume of the material, not to mention the time and expense to record the information for what is becoming an antiquated information-gathering system.

That’s exactly what the Glades County Board of County Commissioners have decided to do during its regular meeting Oct. 25, committing $191,597.70 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to make it a reality.

Best known for helping municipalities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to cover wages for essential employees and pay for needed public health and utility projects, ARPA funds can be used for projects just like this as it falls under the umbrella of providing covid social distancing while providing the public access to its information.

Trae Scism, account executive at Kofile Technologies, Inc., a Dallas-based provider of information management for government agencies nation-wide, told commissioners that the ARPA funding provided to every county in Florida is being utilized for electronic records storage and accessibility.

“That way, if a pandemic were to ever start again or anything like that, everything’s online and accessible,” he said.

Glades County property records can be found online going back to 1988 but that leaves 67 years’ worth of records only accessible by a visit or request to the county courthouse.

Some of the records have been damaged by fire or water, Scism said. Kofile can restore those pages digitally, so they can be viewed in their entirety while preventing further damage by handling and risk by the elements.

Photostatted records can also be restored and secured on the cloud, Scism said.

Kofile’s will transport the county’s 160 property record books and other materials to one of its Georgia or North Carolina-based locations for restoration, a process that could take up to 16 weeks. Another four to five months will be needed to put the restored information on a cloud.

If records are needed before the process is completed, Kofile will provide them within one hour as dictated by Florida Statute 119. Bonding and insurance for the materials while in Kofile’s possession is included in the ARPA funding.

A one-time set-up fee is included in the nearly $200,000 invoice and there is an annual $2,700 maintenance fee after the first 12 months.

Commissioners liked the idea, noting that the money it had received already needs to be accounted for to the state within the next few months.

With other projects coming up, the board felt this would be a good use of the ARPA funding it has. Once existing funding has been allocated, the county can request additional funding for appropriate projects.

Just because the records will now be stored on the cloud doesn’t mean the hard copies will be discarded.

“We would probably have to make the available to the public though,” Commissioner Donna Storter Long said. “They would have to be like a historical relic.”

Scism said that was true, adding that many counties send them to the local library for that historical value purpose.

Commissioners approved the proposal 4-0. Commissioner John Ahern did not vote as he was attending the meeting via phone.

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