248 foreclosures recorded

Published 10:18 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

There were 248 sheriff or clerk deeds (foreclosures) recorded in Cass County in 2011, with only seven properties redeemed, according to Clerk Register Barbara Runyon’s annual report Jan. 19 to the Board of Commissioners.
Runyon said this compares to 284 in 2010, 237 in 2009 and 275 in 2008.
There were 651 property tax forfeitures recorded in 2011, with 545 recorded redemptions, compared to 630 in 2010 with 520 redemptions; 549 in 2009 with 440 redemptions; and 501 in 2008 with 399 redemptions.
Circuit Court saw 1,319 filings, including 1,025 civil matters and 294 criminal proceedings, with just three cases tried by juries.
Her office processed 3,221 voter registrations while conducting three elections — May 3 school elections for Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Marcellus, Constantine, White Pigeon, Three Rivers, Decatur, Niles and Brandywine; the Sept. 13 Cassopolis village election; and Dowagiac’s Nov. 8 city election, plus Silver Creek Township and Constantine Schools proposals.
Runyon’s office generated $507,956.97 for the county general fund. Five dollars from each Register of Deeds recording goes in a technology fund, generating $52,970 last year and making it possible to continue automating.
Circuit Court’s file room collected court-ordered fines totaling $20,949.07, which helps fund Cass District Library and the county law library.
Her staff includes Chief Deputy Monica Kennedy, Paulette Nodruff, Marla Binns, Ruth Gardner, Mary Parmley and Heather Harding, added in July.
Gardner and Binns indexed and back-scanned birth records through 1945; marriages from 1988; and deaths from 2004, so rather than checking an index book, locating a document in the vault  and making photocopies, they pull up scanned images on computer and print certificates from the desktop.
Kennedy, by programming ballots in-house, generated $16,941.60 for the county.
Oct. 1, with the blessing of Circuit Judge Michael Dodge and Cass County Jail, Runyon’s office began a court collections program. Nodruff has 63 defendants on payment plans, with collections increasing $20,000 in three months.
Nov. 15 Cass County implemented an electronic death registry through Michigan vital records by which funeral homes submit death records electronically.
Each record is reviewed for accuracy, filed, certified, then copies are ready for pick-up by  funeral homes.
Runyon, who last February was appointed to the Michigan Register of Deeds Association board, was notified by Underground Security, which stores county microfilm, that some old rolls developed “vinegar syndrome” and were deteriorating. In September, Graphic Science duplicated 581 rolls of acetate film onto polyester-based silver print microfilm, which is supposed to have a 200-year life expectancy.
Last February is also when the office began providing customers with land record images (recorded deeds, mortgages, etc.) online through the county website. Customers pay the $1.25-a-page cost by credit card.
Making images available online is a convenience for customers, who no longer need to make a trip into Cassopolis to obtain a copy of land records which are also available 24/7. The county benefits by saving staff time and document printing costs. Images are available from 1994 to present; 3,666 customers spent $11,742.50.
Dovetailing on that, in September Runyon contracted with U.S. Imaging to convert additional land records microfilm from 1984 to 1993 to digital image.
U.S. Imaging indexes the records and redacts Social Security numbers as part of the four-month project.
In March, Runyon convened the Cass County Reapportionment Committee until Edwardsburg attorney and Republican Chairman Bill LaBre was elected chairman. April 18 a seven-member county commission district map for 2013-14 resulted.
Her office ceased processing passports May 1 because the U.S. State Department issued a state mandate that county clerk’s offices which produce birth certificates could no longer issue passports. “I believer it is a huge disservice to the community,” she told commissioners.
Democrat Mae Knilans of Edwardsburg succeeded Jackie Goodman on the canvassers board in May and was in turn followed in November by Jim Jerue of Dowagiac. Other members are Margaret Stanley, Tina VanBelle and Ernie Kurdys.