The following is a conversation with Kristen DePaul, the Assessor-Recorder for Modoc County in California.
How did you get started with Kofile Services?
In California it’s not uncommon to hear horror stories of buildings and records rooms being threatened by natural disasters, like wildfires. In our case, on top of the ever-present threat of fires, our courthouse sits in the shadow of a dam that’s on the top 10 watchlist of structurally troublesome dams in the United States. If that dam were to ever break, it would flood the entire plane, with all our offices and county buildings in it.
So, we’d been talking about getting our records backed up for quite a while. We approached Kofile Services initially to have them work on our appraisal records. And these records have widespread appeal for anyone purchasing a property, or renovating a property, or anyone with general curiosity. There are a million reasons why people come into to see these records, and if there ever was a flood, all this historical knowledge and information could just be completely wiped out. We couldn’t let that happen.
In addition to our appraisal records, all our vital records were being kept under lock and key without any backups. No electronic replication, nothing.
How did you put CARES Act Funding to use on this project?
Our office maintains a good relationship with our Chief Administrative Officer’s office (CAO), and they made us aware that there was funding available to departments for projects that met all the guidelines.
For scanning records and vitals, even though we had shifted to working remote, there was still no way to avoid coming into the office. The appraisal process—getting the sheets, working them, handing them to the administrative assistant for input—still had to be done in-person handing off paper from one party to the next.
It was the same for vitals. To access records, we had to go into a locked room, pull the actual certificate, make a copy, cut the copy, then deliver it to the requestor. It was a very time-consuming process.
The risk of continuing these in-person transactions during the pandemic made our case clear cut. Digitizing these processes ensured our employees and citizens safety and would ensure the future of all our documents and records.
Beyond just safety, the digitization of these processes means that we never lose records. Paperwork can be lost or misfiled but having electronic records and a streamlined system to process them keeps our office functioning efficiently.
What’s been the result of this project?
We initially planned on imaging all our appraisal records in grey scale but asked to see some samples in color too. Both the grey scale and color samples came back so clear! However, with some of the pictures we needed to be included, we decided to go with the images in full color. I even showed my staff, and they were really surprised. It was totally worth the investment to go with the color copies of everything.
We had budgeted with Kofile Services for 300,000 pages of imaging, which is a pretty large quantity for a small rural county like ours. But when we got about halfway through the project, we decided to convert the balance of our contract with Kofile to using their Land Records product. That meant we could import these high-quality images into our software to be used remotely instead of requiring my team to be in the office.
And the Kofile team was really great about working in batches to work on our appraisal records. Obviously, there’s no good time in the year to be without appraisal sheets, but they must go offsite for the Kofile team to work on them. Their team was just great about letting me pick up the records they were done processing and bring in a new set for imaging. They were also wonderful about pulling records for us and emailing us a digital copy if a request came in for a record or vital that we needed while our records were offsite.
For our vital records, one key benefit for us has been automating the process of delivering vital certificates to our customers. It has made the process so much faster and more efficient. For our appraisal records, we have moved to completely electronic sheets to integrate the services that Kofile provided, and the sheets save us time while preventing errors in calculations and input.
The entire project has been very smooth and straightforward with no snags. We were able to remain within our allocated budget for the project and complete it on time to stay CARES Act compliant. And the fact that we were able to fund it entirely with money from the CARES Act rather than at the expense of our taxpayers, has everyone here feeling like we made the right decision.