The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

July 23, 2013

Anderson County Commissioners approve online land data contract

PALESTINE — Anderson County Commissioners discussed at length on Monday details of a new system that will give the public online access to land records from the county clerk’s office, also approving a related contract and source of payment for the system.

The item was first brought to the court for approval during their July 12 meeting, but was tabled due to confusion about subscription costs versus per-page charges for use of the site.

Ed Hazelton with LGS, who is setting up the software for the county, gave a presentation on the program, which will allow the general public as well as area land men online access to indexes of land records dating back to 1974.

Once the needed document is located on the index, which is free to view, the user would be able to purchase copies of the index online at a rate set by commissioners.

“Our only role is to build the system for the county,” Hazelton said. “The county sets it up how they want — you are fully responsible for setting the rates.

“We took ourselves out of the equation.”

Previously proposed to the court was the idea of a subscriber service, where an account is set up by the individual or company who would pay a set monthly rate of anywhere from $35 to $500, plus $1 per page printed.

That idea was geared toward land men or those who may make hundreds of copies per month for their land research, but County Judge Robert Johnston felt that was not a reasonable system for the general public.

Hazelton reported to the court that he was working with a company to allow for use of credit cards and PayPal™ so that the general public could use those methods for payment.

Johnston also voiced concerns about the fairness of the subscriber service.

“Why charge them a monthly fee plus the $1 per page fee, when the general user just pays $1 per-page,” the judge said. “Without offering the subscribers some kind of incentive (such as unlimited copies, etc.), being a subscriber would not make sense.

“I am all for doing this,” Johnston said. “It is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Commissioner Joey Hill suggested that the county forgo the subscription proposal and just charge $1 per copy for all system users.

“We can reevaluate later and see if there is any interest in offering a subscriber service,” Hill said.

Cost of the system includes an $1,800 set up fee and a monthly fee of $425 a month, which will likely be paid for by user fees.

The court approved a contract addendum for the data processing services with LGS, authorizing Johnston to sign that contract. They also approved allowing the county clerk to use the records archive fund to pay LGS and authorized the county auditor to replace the funds used with revenue collected from images that are viewed.

Due to wording of the agenda, commissioners were unable to approve the $1 per-page rate during the Monday meeting, but did approve not charging a monthly fee.

In other business on Monday, the court approved reports from county officials, bills and a clarification to the employee vacation policy regarding vacation hour accrual.

Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com

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