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Land records going ‘on-line’
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – While all Trinity County land records should be available on-line in two years, about 25-years worth of that information will be available much sooner. Under an agreement approved Monday by the Trinity County Commissioners Court, land records dating from the present back to the mid-1980s should be available for purchase over the Internet by around Christmas time this year. Juan Torres, president of E-nnovations Technologies and Marketing of Houston, was awarded a $10,000 contact to create a web portal – essentially an Internet website – from which the public can access and purchase copies of the land records. E-nnovations is the company hired by The Land Development Co. (LDC) of Houston to convert the county’s land records into a digital format that can be accessed over the Internet. On Monday, Torres noted the county already had some of its land information in a digital format and he saw no reason that they could not be put on the Internet as soon as possible. “This will allow you to begin producing revenue almost immediately,” Torres said. He noted in other counties where this process has been completed, revenue jumped by a factor of 10 as people began to access and download copies on a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week basis from anywhere in the world. County Clerk Diane McCrory said placing the land records on-line has long been one of her goals but until the deal with LDC was finalized in July, she simply couldn’t afford it. However, she has been slowly working over the years to convert the files using her office staff and records dating from the present back to the mid-1980s have been scanned into a computer format. McCrory said her office currently charges $1 per page for copies of the land records and when they go on line, the same $1 per page fee will be in place. Those wishing to purchase the records would use credit cards or a Pay Pal account. “That’s part of what E-nnovations will be doing when they set up the portal. They will set up the payment system,” she said. McCrory, who has indicated she plans to leave office when her current term ends in 2014, said placing the records on-line would be her legacy. “Everything should be complete before I leave office and all of the records should be available,” she added. LDC is paying E-nnovations $50,000 for the conversion of the rest of the county records under a deal approved by the county in July. In exchange for the cost of converting the records, LDC will have 18 months of exclusive access to those digital records. LDC is in the oil and gas business and utilizes county land records to identify the owners of mineral right interests on property that might be targeted for drilling. Michael Mann, president of LDC, told commissioners in July that he expects Trinity County to become “very active” in oil and gas drilling over the next few years. Normally, the cost of converting county land records for Internet access can range from $80,000 up to $250,000 but because LDC and E-nnovations are performing the records conversion in several East Texas counties at the same time, the amount LDC is paying dropped to $50,000. Torres noted that when a company such as his converts land records and sets up a web portal, they often not only require all of their fees up front, they then demand a percentage of the revenue generated by the website. “We do not do that. You will keep all of the money generated from the sale of the records on-line,” he said. McCrory noted while her budget would not allow her to pay the $50,000 fee E-nnovations is collecting from LDC, she has the $10,000 needed to set up the web portal. Torres noted creating the web portal can cost counties much more than $10,000 but because the company is doing this for three or four other counties at this time, the development costs are being shared. Other business During the meeting, commissioners also: • Authorized Pct. 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin to spend $2,200 for the repair of a 12x24-foot section of chip and seal pavement on Pinecrest Road south of Trinity. Chamberlin said a natural spring had developed under the pavement and Waters Construction Co., had agreed to repair it at a cost of $2,200. • Voted to amend the county’s personnel policy regarding vacation, holiday and personal time. Commissioners approved a recommendation from County Auditor Sheila Johnson that the policy state any unused vacation, holiday or personal time be paid at the rate under which it was earned should the employee leave the county’s employ. Johnson noted that the county will implement a 5 percent salary increase on Oct. 1 and under the old policy, any existing unused hours accumulated by employees would go on the books at the new, higher pay rate. • Authorized County Environmental Coordinator Carl Dyer to submit an application for a Regional Solid Waste Program grant. Dyer said the county would be seeking about $16,000 to help fund a pilot program for the clean-up illegal dumpsites. The money would be used to purchase safety equipment and for the cost of disposing the trash. Dyer noted that while jail inmate labor would be used for much of the work, he would occasionally ask commissioners for the loan of front-end loaders to clean up some of the larger trash piles. • Approved participation in a Routine Airport Maintenance Program (RAMP) grant with the Texas Department of Transportation. Under the grant program, $24,500 in repair and maintenance work will be performed at the Trinity County Airport near Groveton. TxDOT will put up $12,250 of the money and the county and the City of Groveton would share the other $12,250. • Renewed their Internet email service with CIRA for another year and agreed to add 10 more email accounts at a cost of $200 per year.