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Clerk looking to preserve old county records

July 17, 2019
Hoping to safeguard historical documents, the Crawford County Circuit Court clerk last Tuesday night approached the county council about funding to shift a part-time employee to a full-time position while also adding part-time help.

Lisa Holzbog told the council, at its regular monthly meeting at the judicial complex in English, that she has about $76,000 in the Clerk's Perpetuation Fund that she is willing to use to help preserve documents at the old courthouse.

"I'm willing to spend that to get those records for the people, for us, to get those up to snuff to where they need to be without being damaged," she said.

Holzbog said the county commissioners have indicated there is room in the former Crawford County Youth Service Bureau building in Marengo that the county owns. (The county leases only a portion of the building to the Town of Marengo at a cost of $1 per year.)

"We got an estimate on it, and we're waiting on one more to get this done," she said.

Holzbog believes the Clerk's Perpetuation Fund can be used to transport the documents, but said she is waiting approval from the State Board of Accounts. However, she said she does know the fund cannot be used to pay salaries, necessitating the need for funding from the council.

"Now, when we do this, it's not an easy job that's going to be done overnight," Holzbog said, noting the records will have to be organized and labeled.

In addition to part-time help, she would like to move Danielle Ash, currently a part-time employee in the Clerk's office, to a full-time records clerk position.

"I'm adding responsibility to her, big responsibility," Holzbog said, explaining part of Ash's responsibilities would be going back and forth to Marengo to retrieve documents as needed.

District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius told the council that the records need to be relocated.

"That can's been kicked down the road many, many times. I'm not blaming anybody. I'm as guilty as anybody," he said.

Crecelius said that, while it didn't do much damage, a particularly heavy rain earlier this year served as a wake-up call, as some flashing at the old courthouse failed and water got into the bottom of the building.

"We want to get them in an environment, a conditioned environment, heated and air conditioned, so it will preserve them," he said. "Once we get them together, maybe we can microfilm some of them."

Holzbog said she would be in favor of using Clerk's Perpetuation Fund monies for transferring the records to scans or microfilm.

"I have a guy that has contacted me, a company that will come in and they want to give an estimate, look at our records, after they're moved," she said.

Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell, who was in the audience, agreed the records need moved.

"It's dangerous, it's dirty, it's damp. Our records are going to be in danger of being destroyed if we don't get something," she said. "So, I fully support Lisa and the commissioners doing that."

William Breeding, the president of the county council, suggested Holzbog, with the council's help, may want to consider purchasing the equipment and having her employees scan the records themselves. While the equipment is expensive, likely costing tens of thousands of dollars, it would likely still be cheaper than contracting someone else to do the work, he said.

Holzbog said she isn't opposed to that option, but said it would require her staff being trained. She added that, to keep costs down, she had planned on having the records scanned in phases, potentially over the course of a few years.

The council (member Lucas Stroud was absent), wanting to hear the opinion of the State Board of Accounts as well as the second quote, opted to wait until its next meeting before addressing Holzbog's requests.

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