Clerk’s office considering move to courthouse

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

As the county prepares to make the transition to the digital age with its record keeping, the office devoted toward maintaining these files may be making some big changes of its own.

The county clerk register office is considering a move from its current office inside the county annex to the Cass County Law and Courts Building, as announced by Clerk Register Monica Kennedy during the last meeting of the Cass County Board of Commissioners Thursday evening. The migration would provide the department with several advantages, including consolidating staff and providing a more stable environment for storage of the county’s historic records, Kennedy said.

Currently, the clerk’s office staff is divided between its main office in the annex and a smaller branch inside the courthouse, with five working in the former and three in the latter. With next year being a presidential election year, relocating into a
central location would allow employees to more easily support one another with voter registration and other election duties, Kennedy said.

“It will save me from driving back and forth between two buildings and trying to be two places at the same time,” Kennedy said. “It will make my life easier.”

The clerk’s office had the option to move the main office to the law and courts building back when it opened in 2003, though the department stayed in the county annex in order to remain in close proximity to the treasurer’s office, which certifies county deeds. With the transition to digital imaging, though, treasurer staff can electronically certify and transfer such documents remotely to the clerk’s office, eliminating the need to physically travel between the two offices, Kennedy said.

A move to the courthouse would also add some additional security to the department’s operations. With the elimination of gun boards across Michigan on Dec. 1, much of the work with issuing Concealed Pistol Licenses to residents now falls on the clerk’s office — as a result, the staff now deals with the brunt of frustration from angry applicants, Kennedy said.

“No one has come across the counter, but they’ve gotten loud and we’ve had to ask them to leave,” she said. “It’s just the beginning — it’s not fun, we don’t enjoy it and my staff is uncomfortable. This move would solve that issue.”

The possibility of moving came about as Kennedy and County Maintenance Director Dave Dickey discussed ways of adding climate control systems to its historic record vault, which lacks the needed systems to continue preserving documents contained within it. As the courthouse has a climate control system in its basement, a move would allow the department to store these records there instead, Kennedy said.

The $44,000 worth of funds in the 2016 budget set aside for the vault improvements could go to the move instead, Board of Commissioners Chairperson Bernie Williamson said. The commissioners voted to allow Dickey to engage in talks with construction management firm Miller-Davis to see how much the move would cost.

Several commissioners also expressed their support for the move.

“We believe we should go forward with this move. Security is the number one issue,” said Robert Wagel. “A lot of counties are facing the same issue, and are moving in a direction to protect their office workers.”