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To The Editor:
I would like to address Brooke Cunningham’s misunderstanding of the law that she relayed in the March 21 edition of The Valley Reporter opinion piece, “In My View.” Vermont State Statute 24 V.S.A. § 1154 requires the town clerk to keep land records “in books to be furnished by the town.” Included under this statute are the zoning permits and surveyed maps. None of our zoning records are kept in the vault due to lack of space. We have eight fire-retardant filing cabinets at the tune of about $2,000 each used for zoning records that, statutorily, should be in the vault. The purpose of the fire-retardant cabinets versus standard filing cabinets is that if there is a fire, we have two hours to save these records.
Yes, towns can invest thousands of dollars digitizing land records to be available via computer; however, they also need to keep a paper copy in the vault. I fully intend to digitize Waitsfield’s land records, but in our current facility, we do not have the space to put a research computer. But when that day comes, voters will have to realize there will need to be a substantial line item in the yearly budget to maintain the digital program. Trevor Lewis, records analyst and local records program coordinator at the Vermont archives and records administration, says this: “Due to the rapid and seemingly ever-accelerating pace of technological obsolescence of all things digital, digital images have a special need for forward planning and mindful initiatives for migration to new physical media and new digital formats and systems over time in order to keep information accessible and reliable. For things that are truly ‘archival’ in the sense of needing to be kept forever (such as land records), paper remains a medium with known long-term stability and no risks of data degradation/corruption or technological obsolescence. Digital images and systems can augment paper, but one should probably proceed with extreme caution in actually using digital systems and images.”
Folks need to be reminded that the town office is a public office: your public office that contains “your” public records…forever.
Waitsfield Town Clerk