Luzerne County administration wants records manager position created

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | June 19th, 2016 9:01 pm

Luzerne County’s administration wants to create a records manager position for its new Hanover Township record storage building.

“This is a major undertaking,” county Manager C. David Pedri recently told the county council. “We only have really one chance to get this thing right and to do it the right way.”

The council earmarked $1.45 million in past-borrowed funds for the record storage project, which included the January purchase of a former U.S. mail carrier facility at 85 Young St. for $750,000.

A state archives expert advised county officials years ago to find another home for their records, including original documents dating back to the late 1800s, because the county’s leased space in the Thomas C. Thomas building on Union Street in Wilkes-Barre suffers from temperature extremes, lack of security, leaks and fire hazards.

Most of the papers kept on three floors of that property must be retained by state law.

The records manager would be paid $50,000 to $60,000 plus benefits.

The administration is seeking the council’s approval for a $45,400 budget transfer the fund the compensation and benefits through the rest of this year. Savings from delays filling a vacant operational services division head position would fund the expense.

Pedri said the records manager would catalogue records, set up the new facility and oversee the transfer of records from the old to new facility and implement a filing system.

The records manager also would develop a countywide record manual, train workers on record requirements and recommend technology to track records, possibly involving bar codes and hand-held scanners, he said.

The new facility may “eventually become full” without a manager handling a tracking system and staying on top of which records can be destroyed by law, the administration said. The manager also would reduce the need for workers from various offices to travel back and forth to retrieve and file records, officials said.

The council may vote on the budget transfer at its June 28 meeting.

At a recent work session, Councilman Harry Haas questioned if the position should convert to a secretarial or clerk job after the storage facility is organized and operational.

Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck said the preservation and handling of historical data requires specialized training.

“It’s really an archival issue,” she said.

Haas said he cares about preserving history and would await a job description detailing minimum experience and education requirements for the position.

Councilwoman Jane Walsh Waitkus asked if the new building will be open to researchers.

County Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik said the new manager would be stationed at the building because space would be set aside for public record viewing.

Walsh Waitkus said she supports efforts to preserve the records, noting the county’s immigration records are in “terrible shape.”

The administration also has proposed the council earmark $1.8 million in past-borrowed funds to scan old paper civil court records and wills to create a digital back-up copy and make the records accessible to the public for a fee online. The council had rejected this project last year because they wanted to keep about $3.5 million in remaining capital funds in reserve. The county owes around $321 million on past borrowing and may not be in a position to borrow more to cover capital needs for many years.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.