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Washington auditor's office tests data transfer

County officials in Washington are testing a system that replaces the tedium, expense and delay of manually processing legal documents with secure digital technology.

The Thurston County Auditor's Office is supercharging its CRIS+plus document recording system from Eagle Computer Systems (ECS) of Eagle, Colo., with a new electronic document preparation and processing system from Ingeo Systems Inc. of Logan, Utah.

County governments use the CRIS+plus system to process, index and capture visual images of land records, vital statistics records, marriage licenses and other official documents.

By combining CRIS+plus with Ingeo's system, county workers no longer have to input documents by scanning.

This is the first volume testing of an electronic document recording system at the county level, Thurston County auditor Kim Wyman said. The system has sliced the county's document processing time from up to an hour down to 30 seconds. 'It's been a great leap forward in efficiency,' Wyman said.

The county is processing one type of document for the test, a reconveyance document used to release property liens. The system will accept reconveyance documents from commercial title companies online rather than as scanned hard copy. The pilot will continue until the system processes 250 documents, Wyman said.

Title companies participating in the test are Chicago Title Insurance Co. of Santa Barbara, Calif; Pioneer Title Co. of Olympia, Wash.; and Transnation Title Insurance Co. of Bellevue, Wash.

Wyman has not yet received cost estimates from the two vendors. If the county decides to adopt the system, it would open up the contract to competitive bidding, she said.

Thurston County installed the CRIS+plus system in 1995, and Ingeo supplied its system for free for the test, which began in mid-April.

Allen Stewart, ECS president, said about 120 counties in 15 states use the CRIS+plus system.

The Ingeo system is made up of ePrepare and eRecord tools. The ePrepare tool lets users'in this case the title companies'digitally create, sign, notarize and transmit documents. Using the eRecord tool, the county receives those documents, validates and endorses them, then passes them to CRIS+plus.

Thurston County uses a Dell PowerEdge server with dual 800-MHz Pentium III processors, 512M of RAM and 30G of storage to run eRecord. The server uses Secure Sockets Layer encryption.

At the title companies, Ingeo installed its ePrepare tool, which uses a standard Web browser. To run ePrepare, Ingeo had to ensure that the title companies' PCs met the following minimum requirements: 200-MHz Pentium processor, 64M of RAM, a 20M hard drive, an SVGA monitor capable of 800- by 600-pixel resolution and a 56-Kbps modem.

The computers also had to have plug-ins allowing their Web browsers to access digital certificate and private key information for digital signatures and notarization.

Digital Signature Trust Co. of Salt Lake City provides digital certificates that endorse the documents' electronic signatures. Arcanvs Inc., also of Salt Lake City, then notarizes the certificates.

ECS developed the interface that lets the CRIS+plus system and the Ingeo system communicate. ECS uses Oracle Corp. database software; its imaging software creates Group IV compression TIFF files. Running CRIS+plus requires a PC with at least 128M of RAM, ECS officials said.

Stewart cautioned that there are many technical and statutory challenges to instituting electronic document recording nationwide. Questions remain about 'whether documents that are prepared and submitted via the Internet are legally binding documents,' he said.

'We started working with Ingeo and then sought out customers who were interested in electronically recording pilot projects in states where statutes were in place that would allow such projects,' he said.

Riverside County, Calif., and Lancaster County, Pa., have expressed interest in testing the electronic document recording system, ECS' Stewart said.

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