Clerk tackles tedious job

Packed-up papers under review as town looks to future

— Town officials are sifting through all the town's records as they actively work on providing safe storage for the vital information.

Town Clerk Lisa Johnston and her staff recently started to look into hundreds of boxes filled with records. The boxes are in a storage room that contains a boiler in Town Hall.

"We are dirty and dusty," Johnston said of the work.

Johnston stressed the storage room does not store the town's ordinances, meeting minutes or the town's codes. Those documents are stored in a vault in the clerk's office.

However, the room does store valuable information the town needs to keep, including include personnel files, budgets, audit reports, payroll, court dockets and elections records, Johnston said.

The clerk's office is going through the hordes of documents as employees prepare to safely secure those records.

"Right now I don't feel the records are very safe," Johnston said. "If we had a flood or fire, it would be a disaster. We would lose everything."

Although the records are being kept in a first-floor storage room that is protected by a fireproof door, the room contains the building's boiler.

"Unfortunately, the boiler is in the room," she said. "If a fire started in the building, I believe that is the room where it would start. It was not the best design."

The Town Board of Trustees has given Johnson its blessing to buy computer equipment that will allow the town to electronically store information.

Johnston is hopeful to buy about $500 worth of computer equipment in the next couple of months.

The computer equipment, which includes software and a scanner, will allow her office to transfer paper documents to compact discs, she said.

It is the town's intention to someday post the electronic information on a Web site.

Johnston also is planning to buy the first of four fireproof file cabinets for about cost $2,000 later in the year.

"This is a high priority for me," Johnston said. "We need to ensure that the town's records are safe."

Johnston is planning to buy a fireproof cabinet every year until all the records are safely stored, she said.

"I believe it will take four file cabinets to store the records," she said.

In the meantime, Johnston and her staff are going through each and every box to determine what records the town needs to keep.

The state has outlined certain documents, like personnel files, budgets, audit reports and minutes from meetings, that need to be kept, she said.

Then there are other documents that the town must keep for only a certain amount of time before they can be discarded, like billing records, she said.

Sifting through the boxes has not been an easy task since the practice of the town has been to pack up records and documents and store them in boxes. Prior to 1995, the records were kept in a basement at the old Town Hall.

While the town was moving into its new building, employees did go through a number of boxes but were not able to thoroughly go through each one of them.

Johnston and her staff are using a checklist provided by the state to make sure they keep certain records. Other documents that have been kept and do not have any state mandates are being kept at the staff's discretion.

"We are determining if the records have a historical value in deciding whether we keep it or chuck it," she said.

Johnston believes it will take about six months for her office to go through each and every box.

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