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County officials to visit, evaluate documents frozen after flood

Monday, January 7, 2013
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— Schoharie County representatives are expected to travel to Texas soon to decide the fate of documents frozen shortly after Tropical Storm Irene flooded the valley.

Soaked papers and books secured after the county’s office complex took on water 16 months ago remain in a Texas restoration facility while officials await an inventory of as many as 10 tractor-trailers full of stuff.

County Clerk Indica Jaycox said the Belfor USA Group is expected to finish an inventory this month that can be used to whittle down the list of items.

Several county departments lost documents when Tropical Storm Irene inundated the village of Schoharie and the county’s office complex, and the county’s efforts to get them restored were stunted by a lawsuit filed by another company that began the work in the immediate aftermath of the flood.

The county reissued a request for proposals in July after state Supreme Court Justice Eugene P. Devine ruled the Document Reprocessors company wasn’t given a fair chance at bidding, and the county awarded the work to Belfor at an estimated cost of $1.9 million.

Belfor USA Group representatives could not be reached for comment for this story.

The county has been able to conduct its business nearly unaffected by the loss of the documents, and County Treasurer William Cherry, who is also the county flood recovery coordinator, estimates as little as 10 percent of the documents might require restoration or replication.

Possible keepers include original Schoharie County tax rolls that date back 200 years and copies of land patents from the Colonial period.

These are documents somebody might want to review if they were doing historical research into a property to see when it was subdivided, for example.

“They were pretty neat old ledgers, but they weren’t anything where you were going to encase them in glass,” Cherry said. He said officials will have the option to have such items scanned, duplicated and digitized.

Also interspersed with the historic documents are more mundane papers like routine correspondence including some items local governments are legally required to hang onto for six or 10 years.

“That is stuff we can live without,” Cherry said.

The biggest impact the loss of documents had on Schoharie County government is that it cancelled the county’s annual foreclosure auction, he said.

There was no auction in 2012 because papers lost to the flood included certified mail receipts with the signatures of people being informed their property was being foreclosed on.

Without supporting documents that might be needed in court, Cherry said he decided not to go forward with foreclosures.

“One of the treasurer’s biggest fears is somebody comes forward and says ‘nobody ever told me,’ ” Cherry said.

 
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