Damaged documents revived online
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 23, 2001
In the spring of 1997, Grand Forks, N.D., was hit by a devastating flood
that covered 90 percent of the area, displaced 50,000 people and damaged
thousands of county property documents.
Now, the North Dakota county soon will test the waters with a new Web-based
service that allows users to access those documents with a flat monthly
Dean Dahl, the county's information systems director, said several banks
and law offices have expressed interest in the application that will likely
cost them $100 a month for unlimited and secure access to documents that
date to the mid-1800s. In the long run, it's cheaper for them, he said.
Providing online property documents is the latest development for the
county of 66,000. "When we first got into this, we didn't even have a Web
page," Dahl said, adding that the site (www.co.grand-forks.nd.us) was established only in the spring of 2001. In
addition to offering a variety of county information, the site enables tax
payments via credit card.
After the flood, Dahl said the county chemically treated the wet documents
so the paper would stop molding. But it was just a matter of time before
the "warped and brittle" documents would disintegrate, he said.
Prior to the flood, the county had been in the process of scanning its
documents and creating an electronic records and content management system.
The matter became more urgent once the flooding damaged documents.
With financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency,
county officials hired a company that continually scanned the documents
for two years, Dahl said. The company also recommended the use of OTG Software
Inc. solutions to manage the electronic document system. The process was
completed in 2000.
The documents were stored on optical drives, Dahl said. The county also
provided PCs and large monitors in its offices so that people from businesses
and the general public could search the documents by grantee or grantor
name or document number, he said. Microfilm and microfiche versions also
The total cost of the equipment and software was about $218,000, but
part of that was offset by FEMA grants, according to Dahl. The soon-to-be-released
Web-based version was implemented with OTG's WebXtender product, he added.