Department of Records, Archives and Information Management Services
3051 County Complex Drive
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Final Narrative Report - Civil Court Records Initiative

The Ontario County Department of Records, Archives and Information Services received a special initiative LGRMIF grant to cull Civil Court Records and to reduce the number of cubic feet occupied by these records because of inter-filing of permanent and non-permanent records. This project was a cooperative effort between the Department of RAIMS and the County Clerk's Office.

After training sessions offered by the Unified Court, Ontario County appointed a part-time, temporary clerk who worked under the direct supervision of the RMO and the County Clerk. To ensure maximum accuracy and to avoid the danger of destroying permanent Civil Court records, the clerk worked closely with the County Clerk staff who had expertise in Civil Court retention and filing requirements. All records targeted for destruction were double-checked by County Clerk staff and by a clerk at the Department of RAIMS. Only then was the necessary paper work sent to the Unified Court System to obtain permission to destroy records.

In addition to culling Civil Court records, the part-time clerk color-coded all other non-permanent files for future destruction. This system will free up more space each year during the next 25 years without requiring the labor intensive search through all Civil Court cubic boxes.

After destruction of non-permanent records as appropriate and as authorized by the Unified Court System, permanent records were re-boxed in acid-free containers and re-shelved in the climate-controlled archives room.

The benefit of this project was particularly evident in the earlier Civil Court files (1950s up to 1970s), where approximately 38% of records could be destroyed. There is little immediate benefit in space reduction for records produced in the 1980s and 1990s. However, because of color coding, there will be a yearly benefit in the future. The County Clerk's Office will also separate future non-permanent records from permanent files. This will place a lesser burden on expensive archival space.

The immediate benefit of this project was the destruction of 136 cubic feet of records and the re-boxing and re-shelving of 219 cubic feet of permanent Civil Court files. The project also gave us the opportunity to shelve Civil Court records more efficiently for quicker retrieval.

Although the permanent staff of both the Department of RAIMS and the County Clerk's Office were actively involved in the project, without the grant the project could not have been accomplished. It was absolutely essential to have the extra part-time, temporary clerk to cull the Civil Court records.

* The RAO has made several visits to the Record and Archives Center. Because of the RAC meetings and various workshops, we a in frequent contact.

* The full Records Advisory Committee meets only once a year for planning purposes. For special projects, such as the technology projects, sub-groups of the Advisory Committee meet. For instance, the civil court project was a primary concern of the IS Head, the County Attorney, and the County Clerk. The RMO found that focus groups result in more valuable meetings.

* The Ontario County Board of Supervisors has been consistently supportive of records management and the Department of RAIMS. The annual budget of the department is just short of $300,000.

* The Department of RAIMS has the mission of making inactive and archival records readily available to departments or to outside researchers AND (by order of the Board of Supervisors) to avoid running out of space and forcing taxpayers to fund an additional capital project. LGRMIF grants have "jump-started" any new project in the department - from adding an Assistant RMO, through microfilm compression of permanent records, to electronic record compression as exemplified by this grant. The County has consistently picked up the cost of continuing the various projects.

* The County Clerk's Office is installing an entirely new hardware/software system during the next six months. Civil Court records retention will be more easily tracked as a result of this improvement.

* The Civil Court Records Project fitted into one the major goals of the County - the avoidance of building and addition or a new facility. The grant will permit the County to concentrate on records management itself rather than diverting County funds into brick and mortar projects. There is no doubt that the County would find it impossible to "sell" to the taxpayers another major capital project, considering the County faces the most expensive capital project in history by building a new jail.

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