County Courthouse cleans up record system

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

When the door to the old records room in the Dallas County Courthouse Annex swung open, Nancy Wilson stepped back.

You might have, too.

Stacks of old, dusty tomes filled the cramped shelves of the tiny room. Portions of the roof stood exposed. Books and records sat in piles on the floor. Dust hung in the air.

And it’s not the only room in the basement of the courthouse annex filled with unknown records.

Wilson, Dallas County finance director, is currently working on organizing, filing and labeling old county records. Two rooms are filled with records such as right-of-way deeds, road project plans, blueprints for county buildings, financial records, election records, County Commission minutes and personnel records. The list goes on and on.

And on and on and on.

Wilson emphasized the point by picking up a zip code directory for 1970. &uot;Why would you keep that when so many beautiful, historic records fill the room?&uot;

Several records can’t be thrown away. According to Wilson, financial records must be maintained for five to seven years. Personnel records are kept for 50 years after an employee leaves his position. Records such as County Commission minutes are kept forever. &uot;Those are things of historical value,&uot; Wilson said.

Wilson said the Alabama Department of Archives and History mandates which records must be kept and for how long. To ensure the requirements are met, Wilson is investing a lot of time into organizing and filing the records.

It’s a tedious task. Three-foot stacks of computer print-outs stand in one of the storage rooms. Many records sit in old cardboard boxes. Wilson noted that she once found employee records in an old toilet tissue box with no lid. Those records now rest in a proper storage box &045; the fate of all records once Wilson’s work is complete, sometime next year.

The larger storage room will be for temporary files. Labels will designate each box’s contents and when it should be destroyed.

The smaller storage room is slated for permanent files. Currently, though, it’s filled with probate and circuit court records. One book dated back to 1857. Just like in the large storage room, County Commission minutes sit next to W-2 forms from 1994. Wilson said she had already thrown away about two dump trucks worth of materials.

But nothing hits the trashcan before Wilson examines it. &uot;I look at everything,&uot; she said. &uot;Nothing is thrown away that I haven’t had my hands on.&uot;