Four county clerk and recorders praised Secretary of State Wayne Williams and the Colorado Legislature for working on a solution to help rural counties replace obsolete equipment vital to recording important documents, including land transactions.
Williams said the second portion of their title, recorder, is often overlooked but keenly important.
“For most Coloradans, their biggest investment is the home, the ranch, that we own,” he said. “So making sure those property records are accurate is absolutely critical.”
He met with clerks Stan Martin of Adams County, Pat Daugherty of Cheyenne County, Susan Corliss of Kit Carson County and Corinne Lengel of Lincoln County in Lengel’s office in Hugo on Friday. They discussed the Electronic Recording Technology Board, an enterprise account created by the legislature in 2016.
The board announced Thursday that 15 rural counties will be the first recipients of grants it will be doling out.
Daugherty couldn’t be happier. “We don’t have any extra money,” she said.
Corliss described the look on her commissioners’ faces when she said she had applied for a grant. The board will vote on her request June 12.
“They said, ‘Do you really think you’ll get this money?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that is what the $2 fee was for and that’s why were pushing it so hard.'”
Lawmakers in 2002 allowed clerks to charge a dollar-per-document fee to help with recording costs. That worked fine for the larger counties — Martin said Adams County handles anywhere from 700 to 1,000 transactions a day. But the vast majority of counties don’t collect enough money to keep up with even maintenance costs.
That’s why the clerks, Secretary Williams and members of various industries, from mortgage firms to title companies, worked for the passage of Senate Bill 115 in 2016. In addition to creating the Electronic Recording and Technology Board, the measure authorized an additional $2-a-document fee for five years. That money goes into a pool, which has grown to $3.2 million.
“The idea was to provide grant money that would help as many rural counties as possible to upgrade their systems so they are more secure, easier to search and easier to file,” Williams said.
Corliss and Martin, who serve on the board, said clerks currently are busy with elections and preparing for a massive change for motor-vehicle transactions, but they expect to receive a slew of grant applications next year.
The clerks were joined by Michelle Batey, the executive director of the Electronic Recording and Technology Board, who had prepared oversize checks for the board members to hand out to the first two recipients, Lengel and Daugherty.
“The nice part about digitizing is in addition to making it more convenient for the customer it’s also for preservation,” Batey said.
“Some of these (document) books date back to the late 1800s so now if something happens — a fire, flood, a tornado — you’ll have a back up.”
She joined the clerks in saying the the secretary of state’s office was vital in getting the board going.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Williams said. “My office stepped in and said, ‘We’re willing to house this.’ It’s not something the Secretary of State’s office has ever done before, but I had been a clerk so I understood the importance of recording.”
Both Lincoln and Cheyenne’s equipment needs were so dire the counties last year purchased upgrades and other equipment while the grant process was still being developed. Daugherty had no idea until the meeting that the board would reimburse her county $15,000 for the earlier purchases; she had sought $8,985 to pay for a maintenance contract with the vendor and to purchase a new recording printer.
Williams will meet with another grant recipient, Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Regina O’Brien, in her office Monday. He will be joined by two other clerk and recorders who serve on the ERTB: Arapahoe County’s Matt Crane, the board chairman, and Routt County’s Kim Bonner.
“I love seeing all the little counties that have been awarded money,” Lengel said.
“I just think it’s a neat thing to do.”