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County turns to private sector to store documents

Storage -- at least of old paper documents -- has turned out to be less of a problem than expected for St. Croix County departments, reported administrators last Thursday.

After years of looking at ways and places to store stacks of older documents for the district attorney, sheriff, clerk of courts and finance departments, administrators found the county can warehouse the needed paper documents at a private facility for about $600 a year.

Because it costs so little to keep documents at a company that specializes in secure storage, it isn't sensible for the county to build storage space, summarized Finance Committee member Daryl Standafer.

Dana Baker, the county's purchasing agent, said departments first estimated they had 445 boxes of documents that could go to off-site storage. But after sorting through papers and shredding obsolete documents, only 267 boxes were taken to Business Data Record Services. Baker said 178 boxes of papers were shredded.

Also, said Baker, departments estimated they would have 25 to 30 more boxes to send to off-site storage each month, but so far there have been none.

That doesn't mean the county's storage problems are solved. The Sheriff's Department is still asking for a building, and some digital imaging work isn't done.

The original charge to a temporary committee was to look at digital imaging and hard copy storage.

Committee members decided that the scanning process to make some departments' documents accessible online varies so much from department to department that it should be handled case by case. That task was turned over to the Information Technology Department.

Baker, who was hired two years ago, used a PowerPoint presentation to give a detailed timeline of the storage study since late 2004.

She said the committee was looking for a one-stop vendor for both imaging and paper-document storage, but dropped that idea after delays in getting reference information about the only company that could do both tasks.

The committee then checked out hard-document storage companies. Committee members were most impressed with the Business Data Record Services facility in New Brighton, Minn., said Baker.

She said the original budget for digital imaging, which was seen as a way of condensing documents, was $25,000. Of that amount $8,827 has been spent. About $7,200 was for overtime or temporary workers to index boxes of documents.

Baker said so far the county has paid $591 for storage and $193 for document delivery to and from BDRS.

The retrieval process is convenient and inexpensive, said Finance Director Michelle Pietrick. She said when she needed stored documents for an audit, she listed the papers she needed, BDRS workers pulled them and the delivery was coordinated with another pick-up.

BDRS uses its own vehicles to pick up and deliver documents and charges $35 a run.

The Sheriff's Department and Public Protection Committee have been asking for a storage building for five years, and that problem still isn't solved, said Public Protection Chairwoman Julie Speer.

Committee member Chuck Mehls said the department still needs secure storage for evidence and a place to store the communications van, emergency generators, the patrol boat, impounded vehicles and maintenance vehicles.

"It just gets brushed over and pushed back," said Speer of the storage problem. The maintenance, emergency communications and sheriff's departments have included this in their long-range capital needs plan for years and the problem hasn't gone away, she said.

Finance Committee member Tom Caflisch said a building project should be looked at during the annual budget process.