Local governments to form working group on records management | Local

Lewis and Clark County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim McCormick was recently researching a public building when he came across an 1889 county ledger “on a roller stand”, he said. declared.

He pulled it down and opened it on the table at a November 1889 entry, in which 10-day-old Montana Governor Joseph K. Toole asked for space in the palace of County Justice, the one still used today, for a state Legislature to meet.

The ledger entry indicated that the application was approved but the transaction could not be finalized immediately because no one working for the new state at the time was authorized to do business with the county.

“It was fascinating to read this, handwritten, in the ledger, and these records absolutely need to be protected,” McCormick said at a county commission meeting earlier this month.

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Commissioners approved the formation of a document management and storage task force on April 12. The group will be made up of representatives from the county and the cities of Helena and East Helena and will attempt to help local governments deal with an overabundance of historical records in attics. , crawl spaces and cart depots across the county.

“That will be part of the discussion that will include, and it’s not just Lewis and Clark County, but the town of Helena, the town of East Helena,” McCormick said.

He said the pledge, backed by a $1 million pledge from the county last year, will help streamline day-to-day processes for maintaining records required by law and preserve the “historic records we want to preserve.” for all time”.

The county previously conducted an investigation into its records and storage practices in 2007. The investigation, conducted by a professional archivist, determined that the county was in possession of more than 3,800 linear feet of records accumulated between 1865 and 2007. .

The study also noted where records were stored in the county and how that retention was managed. The study revealed a number of shortcomings.

Most items were previously stored in Helena’s downtown power block, which county heritage preservation officer Pam Attardo said was less than ideal, but at least designed for a only reference.

Following the building’s sale to the nonprofit Helena Student Assistance Foundation in December, the county had to move the items it had stored there.

The 19th century records, deeds, and maps were moved to the attic of the Law and Justice Center and to a dilapidated building within the Montana Surplus Property and Recycling Facility near the county fairgrounds. Many ancient artifacts, such as the 112-year-old Helena Trolley No. 3 and huge cast iron crucibles salvaged from the former Caird Engineering foundry, are also kept on state property.






A 1909 Helena municipal cart recently sits in a storage facility in Lewis and Clark County.


THOM BRIDGE, Independent Disc


Still other documents, such as aerial photographs and court records, are crammed into the attic of the county courthouse.

The surplus state building previously served as a maintenance garage for the Department of Transportation’s fleet. Parts of the building are literally collapsing. Attardo keeps a large piece of cardboard above an open door to an area of ​​the building where the ceiling recently collapsed, to keep pigeons out.

“I just think it’s extremely important. I was surprised at the status of some of the cases we have,” County Commissioner Tom Rolfe said. “We have a lot of documents that need to be protected and microfilmed or whatever needs to be done to preserve those documents for the future.”

While preservation efforts will likely focus on digitizing the records, Attardo said the task force’s first step will be to update the 14-plus-year-old data the county is currently working with.

“It starts with just figuring out what people have in their offices,” Attardo said, half-jokingly.

The group will seek to contract with another professional archivist to update county data.

Before archival work can begin, the county needs to know what it has, and Lewis and Clark County Administrative Manager Roger Baltz said: “I think it’s fair to say that for this group, the logical way forward is going to be to look at updating this information, which is now over 14 years old.”

What started as a county initiative quickly morphed into a more regional effort with the inclusion of Helena and East Helena.

“I’m looking forward to moving forward,” County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen said. “I’m glad the City of East Helena and the City of Helena are partnering with us to look into this because if we can do something together, and I know that’s a if, but if we can, it’s best for the public we all serve.”

According to Baltz, the MOU has already been reviewed and approved by Helena and East Helena.

While digitizing these documents is a good place to start, Attardo said preserving the physical items should be the priority. This comes with substantial costs.

The City of Butte issued an approximately $7 million bond in 2007 to build the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, a two-story vault that houses its documents and artifacts.

“It’s totally amazing from a geeky archivist’s perspective,” Attardo previously told the Independent Record. “They are like the top of the mountain.”

There are many state grants the county could compete for to help offset the cost of digitization and archiving, but Attardo said grants typically require some sort of plan to preserve items once digitized, which the county currently does not.

Although the Montana Historical Society State Museum might seem like an obvious landing spot, it is currently undergoing extensive expansion and renovation as it needed more space for its own artifacts.