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Michigan county automates deeds, other vital records

Michigan's Genesee County has automated its deeds, mortgages and tax lien records managed by the Register of Deeds, as well as the birth, marriage and death records administered by the county clerk.

The county now can provide its 400,000 residents with online access to indexes for death and marriage records and deeds. The online records index does not include birth records or military discharge information because of state confidentiality laws.

Residents also can order vital records online with a credit card on the county's Web site at www.co.genesee.mi.us. The county generally mails out documents on the same day it receives an online request, cutting down on wait time for residents, according to officials.

Mortgage companies and title insurers can subscribe for $300 a month for online access to complete deed documents.

The county contracted with Bull Information Systems Inc. of Billerica, Mass., for $1.3 million for system integration.

The county is using TrakRecord from Document Technology Systems of Akron, Ohio. The application runs on four Dell PowerEdge servers. The Internet and fax-print servers are 450-MHz dual Pentium III Dell 2400 units with 256M of RAM. The database server is a 500-MHz dual Pentium III Dell 6450 with 1G of RAM. And the public access server is a 450-MHz dual Pentium III Dell 2400 with 128M of RAM.

Melvin P. McCree, Genesee's registrar of deeds, said the new system helps the county more effectively serve its customers.

'Government needs to find ways to do as much as we can with computer systems, otherwise we will be left behind,' he said.

McCree said the new system helps county workers retrieve records more quickly because they no longer have to search through paper documents and microfiche.

And, he added, giving residents access to records online saves the county time and resources by reducing the need to answer questions by phone.

Robert Coffman, supervisor of elections and vital records, said the new system also includes a Digital Science Archive Writer imaging system from Eastman Kodak Co.

'With the imaging system integrated into the computer system, we can scan documents into the system and onto microfilm at the same time,' he said. 'In Michigan it is law that we keep a human-readable record. Our system takes care of that for us by automatically putting the information onto the microfilm.'

Coffman said the new system also helps cut down on storage costs.

'We were running out of space to store documents,' he said. 'It's expensive to have document storage facilities that need to be fireproof and temperature-regulated. It's also expensive and time consuming to have to retrieve documents from storage.'

Coffman added, 'Before, we had to rely on the microfilm or microfiche as a way to retrieve documents. Microfilm is not meant to be something that you use all of the time for retrieval. It gets scratched and broken. Now, we can print out a crystal-clear document directly from our system and store the microfilm in our archives.'

'Donna Young

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