County archives resolution fails, but workshop could keep plan alive

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

While a proposal to establish an official county archives failed to pass the County Commission, the matter is not dead in the water.
During its monthly meeting Monday, the Commission was asked to consider a pair of resolutions dealing with how the county’s records and historic documents are maintained.
The first proposal was a resolution to create a new county department — the Records Management and County Archives Department. The proposal came with a companion resolution that would institute a “county archives and record management fee” that would apply to several different types of licensing, permits and records with the moneys received being earmarked for the archives.
“It’s not just pieces of paper that we are trying to preserve,” County Historian Scott Bowers said, adding the county’s records not only tell of the events that happened in Carter County but the lives of the people who lived here. “Once we lose those records they are gone.”
Some of the records currently maintained in the various county offices date back to the 1700s, Bowers said.
“Records in Carter County are not just important on the local level or on the state level but they are of extreme relevance to the nation,” Bowers said. “We were the first to move away from the British crown.”
When the matter was brought to the Commission floor, several members of the body questioned why no long-term plan had been presented for the archive, including location, how the fees were to be used and what records access would be like.
Several members of the group voiced support for the project and agreed an archive was needed but felt there was not enough information available to vote on the matter during Monday’s meeting.
“I would like to ask this body to put this off for a bit until we can have some workshops and get a plan of action,” Commissioner Danny Ward said. “I think we don’t need to rush into this blindly, which is what we are doing.”
“I’m not against the archives,” Ward added. “I’m for doing the right thing.”
Ward and fellow Commissioner Buford Peters both referred to a request from the school system last year to build a new middle school where county officials directed the school system to have a plan of action and designs in place before funding would be considered.
“You asked the school system to have a five-year plan,” Ward said. “We are creating a new department and we don’t have a plan. Why don’t we have a plan?”
Some voiced a concern that creating the archive would obligate the county to provide funding for a new department when the existing departments have been repeatedly asked to cut their own budgets.
Commissioner Ray Lyons made a motion to approve the resolution to create the new department. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Timothy Holdren but ultimately failed on a vote of 12-11. While 12 was a majority of the members present, under law, matters must be passed by a majority of the total number of seats, not just a majority of those present.
After the failed attempt to pass the measure, Commissioner Mike Hill made a motion, which ultimately passed, to have the County Records Commission hold a workshop session for commissioners and present a plan of action for the archives so the Commission could be better informed and reconsider the matter.

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