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Old files clutter up Amsterdam City Hall

Friday, July 19, 2013 - Updated: 4:09 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

Recorder News Staff

Birth records, divorce requests and boxes upon boxes of budgetary paperwork line countless rooms in Amsterdam City Hall, stacked high in its basement and filling its annex building wall-to-wall.

"This is completely unacceptable," Thane said Thursday as she nosed through yellowed papers from 1973 and walked by upside down, moisture-damaged cardboard boxes that sat in a pile in the middle of the floor.

Much of the paperwork, Thane said, is too old to be necessary anymore. Even more of the paperwork, she said, is unorganized. When people request documents from City Hall, often it takes an extended amount of time because the paperwork is extremely difficult to locate.

"This is from 1995," Thane said. "Do you really need your daily receipts from 1995? You're only required to keep certain documents for seven years."

Boxes stored for the engineering department are mixed with boxes with paperwork from the assessor's office. The city clerk's files are scattered throughout multiple rooms and into the annex building.

As a proposed capital project, funding has been requested for records management software in the clerk's office. With the program, all the documents tucked into the crevices of City Hall and the annex building would be scanned into a database. Information could then be electronically searched by terms like a name or a project number.

"We are just chock full of documents," Thane said. "We have tremendous difficulty identifying records once they go into a box or into a file cabinet. The software would be huge for us."

Per the charter, City Clerk Susan Alibozek doubles as the city's records manager. Thane said she has talked with her about creating a comprehensive records management plan because it is "critically important" the files be up to date and reachable when necessary.

To afford the software, the city has applied for a Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund offered by NYS Archives, a branch of the Office of Education. For the past four years, it was not received, because state funding had been cut back, Thane said.

She also said she has requested money from the Common Council in bonding to fund the software.

"I don't think the council even understands the extent of our needs," Thane said.

First Ward Alderman Joe Isabel said he thinks a project like this would be very beneficial to the city, especially noting the efficiency in searching documents electronically. Still, he said he doesn't think it's of high priority.

"I'm very familiar with that kind of filing and it would probably be useful," Isabel said. "The filing is in very bad shape. But right now, I don't think it's the highest priority. It's something we would want to consider at some point."

Isabel said some projects that rank above records management would be securing adequate police cars for the Amsterdam Police Department and repainting the interior of the city's water tank to avoid contamination and ensure a long life for the structure.

"The water tank needs to be done," Isabel said. "You know, things that are going to affect our future. We'll see how things go after that."

Thane , instead, said this is a problem she wants dealt with sooner rather than later.

"We must move into the future, because this is becoming such a critical problem," Thane said. "We are just stuffed to the gills with paper."

Thane said City Hall has slowly been making its way into the 21st century and has recently updated its accounting software.

Robert von Hasseln, director of community and economic development, is also working with the Department of Health to construct an interactive map residents will be able to use to share complaints -- whether it be potential drug activity, burnt out street lights or overgrown vegetation.

     

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