Alaska moves documents to Web

Alaska Office of the Recorder

In the past, Alaskans not only had to trek long distances to one of 14 state offices to access property records, but they also had to contend with a cumbersome process of accessing the documents.

Through dumb terminals linked to a mainframe system, residents had to look up a record's reference book and page numbers, find the relevant stored microfiche box containing the information, and finally, flip and scroll around to find the needed document, said Richard McMahon, data processing manager for the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which houses the state Recorder's Office.

And not all data was shared statewide. If you wanted to read a deed in Nome, for instance, you had to go there — not a quick trip in a state with 587,000 square miles and about 635,000 people.

But over the last two years, the Recorder's Office — which records deeds, mortgages, property and child support enforcement liens and court decrees, among other documents — has made its mainframe indexing system accessible over the Web, added a document-imaging system and is slowly providing more documents online, McMahon said. Nearly 300,000 documents are recorded each year and there are about 36 million records in the database, although it's not clear how many are accessible online.

Certain documents, such as military discharge papers, are not available electronically because some residents have privacy concerns and are wary of identity theft, McMahon said. The state has been partnering with municipalities and boroughs to put about two-thirds of their historical maps online, he added.

That success has spurred the state Recorder's Office — also responsible for the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) system that creates records for financial transactions that are not property-related — to develop a system allowing residents to file UCC records online. Officials expect to unveil it in January, McMahon said.

Such an electronic advancement "gives us a foot forward" in conducting transactions online, he said, adding that the industry is heading toward recording deeds online that require digital signatures.

Alaska paid $100,000 to $150,000 to use Germany-based Software AG Inc.'s EntireX application to provide a Web interface for legacy systems.

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