County offices are running out of room to store hundreds of years worth of documents, and the solution for freeing up space won’t be cheap.
The ongoing storage issue was revived Tuesday when Sheriff Ryan Needham told the county council his office was near full capacity for records.
“It’s certainly a countywide problem, but after this year when we move our 19 files into storage, I am simply out of room,” said Needham, who added that some records are maintained at the courthouse.
The county could be asked to hire a full-time employee to begin scanning documents as early as 2021. A standard records box contains 2,500 letter-size pages and occupies 1.6 square feet of floor space, according to the Indiana Archives and Records Administration.
The average cost of maintaining just one cubic foot of records in an office ranges from $12 to $14 a year.
Government agencies are under strict guidance for digitizing files, and the cheapest way to convert documents is more time-consuming, Auditor Jennifer Andel said.
The state-accepted digital format is microfilm, the same reels of images maintained by libraries to preserve old newspapers. Microfilming reduces 90 cubic feet of records to one cubic foot, according to the archives and records administration.
Creating a PDF version of a document before making a microfilm image, “even though it seems more cumbersome actually may be the more affordable way” to digitize the content, Andel said.
“We have payroll records going back to the 1800s. They’re permanent, we have to keep them,” she said.
Once the documents are preserved, government agencies must seek approval from the state to destroy paper versions of non-permanent records or transfer certain public records.