Flood damaged 3.6M docs

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Lorenz looks into the vault room where a variety of court records had been kept prior to sustaining flood damage on June 17. The records are being dried and cleaned by a Livonia company.

HOUGHTON — Court records were among the Houghton County Courthouse items damaged in the June 17 flood.

A vault containing circuit, family and probate court records on the basement level was flooded.

The county is insured for the loss of the records, Administrator Eric Forsberg said at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

Without the hard copies, people are unable to get some necessary files if they’ve lost their copes, Clerk Jennifer Lorenz said.

To change a name on a driver’s license, the Secretary of State requires items such as a birth certificate, marriage license and judgment of divorce.

“Say they were divorced and their name changes,” Lorenz said. “Right now, these poor women cannot get their divorce decrees if they didn’t keep them, and they’re going to have to jump through hoops.”

The documents were picked up by Document Restoration Services in Livonia. Moving the records cost about $92,000.

A preliminary estimate put the work at $443,714.

Items listed on a report submitted to the county include vacuum freezing, water/sewage cleaning and drying/cleaning of microfilm.

“My understanding is they freeze it, dry it, then they have a machine that will try to separate any pages that are stuck,” said Clerk Jennifer Lorenz. “Then the records can be scanned.”

An extended digitization option, which the county did not take, would have cost about $656,319.

The estimate listed more than 3.6 million documents.

Contacted shortly before the close of business Friday afternoon, a Document Restoration Services representative said the company was not permitted to comment on the work without written approval from the county.

Lorenz said she planned to suggest the county begin creating digital backups for court records.

“To me, that’ll be almost at no cost, so why would we not start going ahead, for the future?” she said.