Over the past several years, the Schoharie County Clerk’s Office has taken many original documents — like deeds dating as far back as 1795 — and copied them in digital format to make them available electronically.
And though many historic documents stored in the cellar at the Schoharie County office complex were covered with fetid floodwater and badly damaged, officials on Friday said little if anything critical or confidential has been lost.
Schoharie County Clerk Indica Jaycox and other officials gathered in front of the hobbled county building on Main Street to explain what went into saving documents after the flood.
A steady stream of smelly water poured from a hose running out of the Main Street office building as Jaycox recalled joining security staff from the state Department of Motor Vehicles on Aug. 31 to secure license plates, computers and other gear.
“It was not a pretty sight,” Jaycox said during the news conference, during which she was interrupted periodically by a loud utility vehicle or construction truck rumbling down the dusty Main Street.
On Sept. 3, Jaycox joined staff from the state Office of Court Administration and representatives from New York State Archives, a division of the state Education Department, to decide what should be gathered for possible restoration and what could be thrown out.
Some items were simply tossed — such as the plastic-jacketed deed and mortgage books that were already digitized and available on microfilm. They can be reproduced more cheaply than having a company clean them off, officials said, so they were thrown away.
Jaycox said any sensitive documents, such as sealed court files, were all locked up and secured. There was no sensitive, non-public information floating down Main Street after the flood, she said.
Items stored in the basement include obscure documents like social services case files municipalities are required to store for a period of time, civil case files, and cabinets or “tills” holding folded deeds dating back to the 1790s. These are considered historic, and they will be reviewed to determine if the cost of restoration is warranted, County Attorney Michael West said.
When officials went through the county clerk’s office and storage downstairs, numerous items identified as worthy of restoration were immediately shrink-wrapped, placed on a pallet and gathered by the county’s contractor, Document Reprocessors, for restoration. In roughly three weeks, Jaycox said, the restoration process should be at the point where officials can determine which items should be completely restored.
West said it’s possible restoring some items could cost upwards of $1,000 each — and officials will get a chance to determine whether it’s worth the money to do so.
Deputy County Clerk Larry Caza said some of the large property record maps — those dating from 2007 and forward — were among items that were wrapped up for potential restoration. Some may not be salvageable, but there is hope that there are duplicates of these maps in digital format held by the Real Property Tax office.
Caza said most, if not all services of the clerk’s office are still available, though in another location.
The county clerk’s office is operating with computer terminals at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building across the street from the Sunshine Fairgrounds at 173 S. Grand St. in Cobleskill.
The Department of Motor Vehicles is in Richmondville, at the office building of Lancaster Development at 145 Podpadic Drive, off Route 7.
The county was in a similar situation following the flooding in 1996, having stored numerous documents in the cellar then as well.
Jaycox said if she has her way, nothing of any importance will be stored in the basement at the county office building again.
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Categories: Schenectady County