Elmore County Probate Office
Elmore County Probate Judge Fulfills A Goal
Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen wanted to make the voluminous public records housed in the county probate office more easily accessible to the general public. Step number one, which is still ongoing, has been to digitize the old, deteriorating paper records in the courthouse. "Digitizing paper records is a very important public service and fulfills a major part of my legal duty to permanently preserve our public records," said the judge.
Since taking office in 2013, Judge Enslen has worked with Syscon, a software solutions company, to electronically digitize all of the old paper documents and records in the probate office. In addition to other public records, Enslen’s office has recently recorded Elmore County Commission meeting minutes through the year 2016.
Step number two has been to make the digitized records available over the internet. The probate office has had a good business relationship with its software vendor Syscon for decades and extended negotiations with Syscon to place our public records on the internet have finally yielded fruit.
“I requested that our public records be made accessible online at a minimum of cost to the public, and I am grateful to Syscon for this wonderful accommodation for our citizens and the public at large wherever they may live or work. Now, everything in our office that is available to the general public at our physical office location will be available through a new online system,” said Judge Enslen.
That accommodation began preliminarily with a Syscon-provided remote-access data base designed for professionals requiring continuous access to records –- attorneys, appraisers, foresters, engineers, abstractors, utility companies, investigators, and others. Accessing that particular data base is fairly expensive, including a $25 up-front registration fee to use the system. That was a fee-based service to search, retrieve, and print those records from their offices, rather than traveling to the courthouse. "The user fees associated with that preliminary system were too high. We now expect a new option to be used by casual users, non-professionals, who only need access occasionally for one or two documents,” Enslen said.
After Enslen requested that Syscon provide remote access for more casual users at a much lesser cost, Syscon began working on an alternative.
“Now anyone who is looking for his or her marriage record, or looking for the deed to a home, or who simply wants to get a copy of a couple of documents can obtain those documents online at a very modest cost,” said Michael Ausborn of Syscon.
Members of the public may use the new system to view deeds, mortgages, judgments, and liens, as well as research local history. “There is a lot of historical information in our court records. Our probate court, for instance, does a lot more than estates and wills. We handle guardianships, conservatorships, eminent domain proceedings (condemnations), name changes, involuntary commitment for mental illness treatment, and sales for division. All of those litigation records will also be in the system. We also handle adoptions, but those adoption records are confidential except for people directly involved in the adoption.”
The exact cost to use the system will be as follows: There is no charge for accessing the website and there is no charge for viewing the entire index. Once a patron locates in the index the exact document he wants to view, there is a 75 cents per page viewing fee that goes to Syscon. If the patron desires to print a copy of the document, there is a statutory one dollar per page copy fee that goes to the probate office, the same charge that is made for copies purchased inside the office. Once a person commences to view one or more documents, there is a $3.50 minimum charge for using the system.
For example, say a patron wants to get a copy of the two page deed to his home. He goes to the website, looks in the index free of charge, and finds the reference to his name and the document he wants. He opens the document and pays $.75 for each of the two pages he views for a total of $1.50 for the viewing fee. Then he prints the two pages for $1.00 per page for a total of $2.00 copy costs. Thus, the total overall cost for getting a copy of his deed over the website is $3.50----the minimum he would have spent anyway for going into a viewing mode. Obtaining that same deed by making a trip to the probate office would have cost only $2.00, but the time and round-trip travel costs (surely more than $1.50) could be averted by using the website.
Enslen said his office values the services Syscon provides. "Syscon has been flexible; they work with us. We like them and we’re very grateful for this new accommodation they’re providing for our citizens. No tax monies are involved in putting these records on the internet or maintaining the system.”