PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) – The official record of Pueblo’s history can’t be found with the click of a button.
That says a lot in this day of digital accessibility, but such is the case for the office of Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder, which maintains 1,526 volumes of land records that date back to 1867.
And that’s just land records. That doesn’t touch the minutes of county commissioner meetings and other documents held by the clerk and recorder.
“We have Kit Carson’s will,” Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, the county clerk and recorder, said as he stood waiting for a vault to open at the Pueblo County Courthouse.
The county also possesses the federal document signing over the land of the courthouse to Pueblo County. It’s signed by President Ulysses S. Grant.
There are several vaults in the 100-year-old courthouse that hold written books of Pueblo’s history.
The clerk and recorder’s office is trying to copy that information to digital format, a slow process that costs $60,000 a year.
Funding, however, was cut from the clerk and recorder’s budget this year. Now, Ortiz is hoping to seek grants or partner with a local title company to digitize the historical collection.
Currently, if a title company or anyone is seeking dated land information, they hoist the massive old books onto a photo copier.
“This is the history of our county,” Ortiz said. “We need to preserve that history so we can look back on it and know what our forefathers did. Because with natural gas (drilling) and the way things are going with that, this is important information to have. It would be a tragedy to lose these vital records.
“My biggest worry is one night I’m going to get a call and a pipe’s burst and it’s flooding in the vault. That’s always a gigantic fear.”
Ortiz said the cost to digitize the entire collection of land records has been estimated at $500,000.
The clerk and recorder annually receives $60,000 from electronic recording fees. That money is earmarked for the clerk and recorder but it was cut this year due to deficit issues with the county budget.
“It was put in my budget but it was denied,” Ortiz said.
According to Scott Wright, supervisor of recording, records dating to 1988 have been digitally copied.
Records dating back to 1963 have been copied onto film and are housed at the Colorado State Archives, but Wright said digitizing is his hope for the future.
“We need to find a way to fund this project now before it’s too late,” Wright said. “This is a one-time, very important investment that will ensure the preservation, security and accessibility of Pueblo County records for future generations.”
– By NICK BONHAM, The Chieftain
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