BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
For the first time in nearly two years, the Greene County Records Committee met on Thursday to address issues surrounding the county's records and to elect officers.
The committee named County Commissioner David Crum as chair, County Commissioner Ted Hensley as vice-chair, and Don Miller, director of the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library, as secretary.
Miller also serves as director of the T. Elmer Cox Historical and Genealogical Library, which is a branch of the library itself.
Other members of the Records Committee are: County Historian Marie Harmon, Greene County Clerk David Thompson, Greene County Register of Deeds Joy Rader, Madge Walker, of the Greene County Genealogical Society, and Third Judicial District Circuit Judges John Wilson and Tom Wright.
County Mayor Alan Broyles, who attended the first part of the meeting to facilitate it until the committee elected a chair, provided a sheet of typed information describing the committee's role.
The sheet of information also stated that the Records Committee shall not meet less than twice annually.
Based on a specific citation from the Tennessee Code Annotated on the written sheet and an Internet check of state law by The Greeneville Sun, it appears to be a requirement within state law that each county's Records Committee meet at least twice a year.
Mayor Broyles said in a follow-up interview to Thursday's meeting that the Records Committee had not had any business [since the previous meeting in 2010], and therefore had not met.
He said in the interview that it had been an oversight that the apparent state requirement for at least two Records Committee meetings per year -- even if there is no business to conduct -- had not been noticed by the county and acted on.
However, the mayor said he would confer with County Attorney Roger Woolsey to ensure that the County Commission is now fulfilling the law's requirements.
He later contacted The Greeneville Sun to say that he had reviewed the state statute on the subject and does not believe it was the intent of the law to require the committee to meet even when there is no business to conduct.
The mayor said he had not yet been in contact with County Attorney Woolsey on the subject, but added that he and Woolsey would give it further review.
On Tuesday, Crum informed the committee members that it will likely be best for the committee to meet quarterly, with the next meeting to occur on April 12 at the Cox Library.
Judges Wilson and Wright were not present at the meeting Thursday.
Crum said that he would contact both judges to determine what meeting times work for their schedules.
He said that he would also see if one of the two judges would be willing to allow Circuit Court Clerk Gail Jeffers to fill his position on the committee.
The committee members present spent at least half of the hour-long meeting reviewing minutes from the last Records Committee meeting, held on Feb. 25, 2010.
During that review, Don Miller told the other members of the committee that three years of working toward the purchase of a microfilm reader/printer has yet to produce results, following confusion in the bidding process two years ago.
He explained that the microfilm reader/printer is important because it is the only way that people can access microfilm records and Greeneville newspapers on microfilm at the library.
There is currently only one such machine in working order, he said.
The county previously allotted $3,500 toward the equipment, which was half of the estimated price at that time. He said that he has since received a $1,000 private donation allotted toward the purchase.
The committee approved a motion by Crum for Miller to request the remaining part of the price for the equipment, estimated at $2,500, from the Town of Greeneville.
FADING, ILLEGIBLE RECORDS
In new business, Greene County Register of Deeds Joy Rader requested that the committee approve her sending county deed books from the 1950s and 1960s to Business Information Systems (BIS) in Piney Flats for the company to digitize (digitally scan) and then restore the images.
She said that these particular books have a black background with white text and are fading and becoming illegible.
Scanning new copies is a difficult task, however, because of the reversed coloring, she said.
Rader reminded the committee that her office is the most authoritative source for finding accurate information on Greene County's deeds and noted that the deeds are a vital resource to the public.
BIS is offering the county a discounted rate on digitizing, backing up digitally, and microfilming the deeds, she said, but she will have to send the books, four or five at a time, to the company's location in Piney Flats.
Madge Walker, of the Greene County Genealogical Society, noted that it would be "horrible to lose" the records and made the motion to allow Rader to send the books as necessary.
The committee unanimously approved Walker's motion.
OTHER DEPARTMENTS' RECORDS
Also under discussion was the possibility that many deeds that have already undergone this process may now be available in a digital format for the library to copy, rather than requiring the purchase of expensive microfilm.
In addition, Rader requested that the committee contact all the county's departments to determine the state of their records.
She said that she is aware of some departments that are in need of more space for storage of records.
Crum reminded the committee that Commissioner Hensley chairs the Long-Range Planning Committee, which Crum said could aid the Public Records Committee in such future decisions.