Going Paperless: Clerk’s office streamlines office files

Published 7:00pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Lincoln County circuit clerk’s effort to streamline files electronically and go paperless is nearly complete, according to Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield.

“We are shooting for the end of September, to be as close to paperless as legally allowed,” said Bairfield.

The move is something Bairfield has wanted to do for a while now – after learning the significance of the changes roughly seven years ago at the Pike County circuit clerk’s office.

At the time, Bairfield came to understand the substantial savings that could be made in the budget, and the huge amount of physical office space that could be opened up and utilized, by modernizing and consolidating office files.

Since being elected this past November, Bairfield has incorporated a number of modernization efforts in his office.

Since this February, the office has scanned more than 1,500 documents, severely reducing the need for filing cabinets, folders and paper. All documents going back to 1986 have been scanned and entered into a computerized system that ensures backup.

In a given year at the office, employees will file close to 600 civil and 300 criminal cases. Just one of these cases can result in anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 pieces of paper. Ten cases alone can fill an entire file cabinet.

Thus, scanning documents and preserving them electronically is a move that will save anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000 in the budget yearly, according to Bairfield.

Hours that were once devoted to the laborious back-and-forth trips to file cabinets and folders have all but been eliminated by the clerk’s efforts. Issues of liability, such as concerns over unauthorized access to information like social security numbers, will no longer be a concern since the computer software automatically edits certain data out.

Under Bairfield’s direction, the office has also developed its first website. Now, access to updated criminal and civil cases, marriage licenses, voter registration and passport forms, waivers of arraignment, as well as many other documents, can be found online. Citizens can find specific forms on the website, print them out and complete them at home now, alleviating the time and money associated with making the trip in person.

Whereas marriage applications once had to be typed up, and subsequently returned, now it’s become a one-stop process. Part of this is due to changes in state law related to marriage licenses. Couples no longer have to go through a three-day waiting period, as was the case before July 1.

Soon, Bairfield promises users will be able to determine where to vote, and even find out election results, solely by entering their address into the office’s website.

The circuit clerk also suggests that all court proceeding information will be filed electronically in the courthouse by the judge and district attorney in the near future. “This will save paper and automatically back up information within five minutes of entry,” said Bairfield.

The move by Bairfield follows the Lincoln County chancery clerk’s office’s decision to electronically backup their files, which was prompted by Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop.

The two clerks’ offices use Delta Computer software to back up scanned files. Delta also maintains the server the documents are stored on. Delta Computer backs up the scanned records on a daily basis, ensuring files are secure.

Some paper will never be eliminated such as documents that make up a “minute book” or those that are required by the Supreme Court, Bairfield said. A minute book refers to a book kept by the clerk of a court for recording a summary of all the judicial orders in a proceeding.

However, Bairfield’s efforts will ensure no future loss of vital community information, and save some money as well.