Commission approves creating county archives
Published 9:24 am Monday, January 25, 2016
An official Carter County Archives is one step closer to a reality following a vote by the Carter County Commission during the group’s meeting on Jan. 19.
The group overwhelmingly voted to approve a pair of resolutions to create a Records Management and County Archives Department and to approve a records fee structure that would be used to fund the new department.
A proposal to create the archives and adopt the fee structure was first brought to the Commission in July 2015 and while many commissioners voice support for the idea, some said not enough information was available at the time regarding the creation of the department and how it would operate to allow them to approve the plan. Carter County Historian Scott Bowers set up a workshop session on creating an official county archives which allowed commissioners to ask questions and hear from officials with the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
When the plan for the archives was brought back before the Commission this month, the group overwhelming supported establishing the new Records Management and County Archives Department, but were more divided on the issue of the records management fees to financially support the program.
The group voted 21-1 in favor of creating the archives, with Commissioner John Lewis casting the only dissenting vote. The resolution creating the fee structure was approved by a margin to 17-5. Commissioners Mike Hill, Al Meehan, Danny Ward and Bobbie Gouge-Dietz joined Lewis in voting against the fee structure.
“I want to go on the records that this is a tax, not a fee,” Ward said. “Call it what you want, this is raising taxes.”
When he spoke to the Commission this month, Bowers noted that not only are the county’s records important to local history, they are important on a national scale as well with events such as the muster of the Overmountain Men taking place right here in Carter County.
“That was a turning point in the Revolutionary War,” Bowers said.
The various county office contain a treasure trove of records that, Bowers said, that tells the story of Carter County and the lives of the people who lived here.
Under the terms of the resolution to create the archives department “the archives shall be the repository for inactive permanent records of the county that are no longer required by county offices for current operations, and county government offices shall transfer inactive records to the archives upon the completion of their retention terms set by the county public records commission.”
State law requires each elected official to maintain appropriate records related to their office. The responsibility lies with the elected official to preserve and maintain the records but state law also allows elected officials to turn inactive records over to a county archives for maintenance and preservation. Records turned over to the archives will remain public and members of the public will still have access to them.
Bowers assured the Commission during discussion on the resolution that each county elected official will be able to use their own discretion regarding what records to archive and whether or not to release any records to the archives.
Previously, some elected officials expressed some concern with relinquishing the records to the care of another person or department. However, Bowers said, many of the elected officials now support the idea of the archives.
“Our hope is that once we get started any that have concerns will see how it operates and want to take part,” he said.
The fee structure approved to provide funding to the new department will add a $5 records management fee to all of the following licenses, records and permits: building permit applications, rezoning requests, variance applications, stormwater permits, marriage license applications, beer permit applications, notary public applications, vehicle titles (including replacement titles), business license applications, and public records filed with the clerks of court for the purpose of initiating a legal proceeding. Though the Highway Department does not require driveway permits at this time, if the department ever began requiring those permits, a $5 fee would be added for records management. Annual vehicle registrations will not have the fee added.
The idea behind the fee is to have the new Records Management and County Archives Department be self-sustaining and not require funding from the county’s general fund budget. Money collected under the fee schedule will be earmarked for the department and cannot be allocated to any other county department or agency.
Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey estimated it would take three-to-five years for the fees to build up and allow for the actually creation of the archives in its own office space.