March Madness is in full swing. How are your brackets doing so far? The online sites allow anyone to make selections and monitor all picks. Currently, North Carolina has a single site that allows anyone to recover plats or deeds for a certain county. The search is simple and the state or the county does not charge a fee for this service. A surveyor in my firm's Raleigh office was shocked that Counties in Virginia charged money to hand out public records to the community. Does this make sense?
I might be able to see an argument that the fees are necessary to operate the online site, but then many GIS sites will provide data sets without cost so why the fees for public land records? As surveyors we are often forced to add cost for record research into projects. As part of a large firm, I am sure that I do not understand the impact of these costs to smaller firms. The surveyor must cut costs to compete against others on projects with slim margins.
The state is supposed to allow the pubilc open access for records. The fees that go along with the online records may suggest that the state is hurting the firms that cannot afford certain costs. The typical surveyor will not act against this because it means too much time against production or other business actions. This may be an issue that requires the VAS to step in to support.
The state does a nice job with records and I am always surprised with what I can recover from the online sources. One site to get everything is the proper way to handle the process. The surveyor and the VAS must work together on issues like this and make changes for the better. That means that each surveyor must show up and speak about the issues. The VAS is a great place to make changes, but it can only happen if you participate. The state convention is great way to start participating. Meet others who have similar issues and discuss ways to make changes. See you in April.
It is simple the Counties charge because they can. Originally it cost a 100 dollars per month for the subscription. That was reduced to 50 dollars by Legislative action several years ago. It makes it difficult to do work in surrounding Counties unless you do enough work to justify the cost of the subscription. Some Counties allow a month to month subscription while others require a full year subscription. Some Counties have a significant amount of their historical records on line while others have a limited amount on line. Which necessitates a trip to the Courthouse for back research.
David Deputy L.S.
King George County, Virginia.
Kevin, I have truly enjoyed your excellent letters from the editor over the course of the last 14 months. You have been one of the best editors ODS has ever had and will be missed as you move up to your responsibilities as 1st Vice President. That said, I am looking forward to continuing to work with you on the executive board into 2020.