FLINT TWP. — With paper records dating back to the 1940s, the time has come for the building department to modernize its filing and storage system.
An electronic archiving contract, recently unanimously approved by the township board, aims to do just that.
Tracey Tucker, building director, described long-term document management issues that include inability to print large, unwieldy site plans and numerous file cabinets containing unknown numbers of records.
“As you know, my department produces lot of paper,” she said, adding that a garage used for storage is now full.
“We need to use space more efficiently and to be able to find things.”
Archiving would free the department from having to keep physical copies of some documents once they are scanned into the system. Digital documents would be searchable and make it easier to retrieve quickly when needed. One example are building plans that the fire department uses to determine building layouts including where building exits are.
Tucker said commercial site plans have to be retained on file indefinitely but residential site plans only for seven years.
Most of the plans on file are from the 1960s but there a few from the 1950s and some go back to the 1940s, Tucker said.
Archiving records including the cost is “a daunting task for us,” said Township Supervisor Karyn Miller. An effort made several years ago to hire someone to tackle archiving did not get very far, she said, adding that the board did not use $50,000 budgeted for archiving a few years ago and still has available $25,000 budgeted last year.
The board unanimously approved the latter amount for the contract to get the process started. Initial costs include software and set-up fees.
Before voting to approve the contract, board trustee Belenda Parker asked questions about varying cost estimates presented.
Tucker said the cost breakdown varies because the amount of paper to be archived is unknown. They are starting with a per page estimate to get the ball rolling.
Parker also stressed the importance of the files being scanned as pdfs so that they remain accessible as technology changes. She said she is familiar with building documents, having worked with them for more than 30 years.
“I want to make sure they are scanned to pdf so if the system becomes obsolete then you won’t be back here for approval to spend more money to do it again.”
Trustee Frank Kasle inquired about the order of archiving. With so much needing to be done and only so much money to do it, he wanted to know if the oldest or newest records would be done first.
Miller said the site plans are the most difficult documents to work with because of their size and likely to be done first. But the building department has worked out a systematic plan to approach the order of archiving, she said.
Miller also mentioned the immediate need to address a storage garage stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of records. “If there was a flood or a fire, I don’t know how we would replace them,’” she said.