Looking up East Hampton Village property records, especially those that pertained to permits, design review, zoning, planning, and building inspection, may have been a lengthy, costly paper chore — until recently. But now, “with a few keystrokes,” Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, said, the data on a particular property can show up in one neat, tidy place: the village’s computer system.
“Space becoming constricted” was one reason Mr. Cantwell cited for the three-year project, which converted over 200,000 pages of documents from paper to electronic records, thanks to Linda Beyer and Pam Bennett, village employees.
“It will save enormous hours of staff time,” Mr. Cantwell said, adding that it would make it easier to get property information to those who request it, which includes, but is not limited to, “property owners, title companies, contractors, lawyers, buyers, and real estate agents.”
Three years ago, East Hampton Village received a $10,000 grant to get the changeover started. This included buying software. All in all, the village has used $50,000 in state records management money, and about an equal amount in village funds.
The records go back to 1952, when the first building permits were issued after zoning was adopted. With a tax map number, it is now possible to get a full mélange of data, either from Village Hall employees or from a computer in the lobby set up for public use. Information can even be e-mailed.
Another reason for the change, Mr. Cantwell said, was “recognizing how important records of property are. Property values are high,” he said.
Urban areas have used electronic devices for years, and smaller communities throughout the state are just starting to catch up. East Hampton received help, on a different front, from the New York State Archives. This came first in training and education on records management, which has changed drastically in the past 15 years because of computerization.
“Hopefully,” Mr. Cantwell said in a letter to the village board, “we will save a few trees into the future and reduce the need for storage space.”
All the records “are now in digital format,” the letter states. “And we have eliminated huge volumes of paper records.”
The village is “caught up” on its property paperwork, and now it’s just a question of routine. “Every time we’re dealing with an application now, we scan it,” Mr. Cantwell said.