Statutory Recording Fee Opens Door to Automated Redaction

Interview with Carey Petersilka, Door County, Wisconsin Register of Deeds

Extract: With 300 miles of shoreline, 11 lighthouses, miles of scenic roadways plus many other attractions and amenities, Door County is a premier vacation destination. How does being a major tourism destina [Recording Fee Opens Door to Automated Redaction] tion affect the county Register of Deeds office?

Petersilka: Door County is what many people call their second home, which is wonderful. People summer here, bring their families on holidays, and even retire here. The influx of people in the summer, and most recently the winters, brings along many who are buying/selling, wanting to do genealogy on their families, or even come to be married. We definitely see many new brides and grooms who come and use Door County as their destination wedding location.

Extract: Wisconsin passed legislation requiring the redaction of Social Security numbers within recorded documents. This law also increased the recording fee to allow counties to invest in redaction software and other technologies. Have those fees enabled your office to pursue greater efficiency by harnessing IT solutions, such as automated indexing software?

Petersilka: Yes, the redaction account which is supplemented by the additional $5 recording fee which was signed into law on May 12th, 2010, has definitely helped our office. This changed the recording fee structure for real estate documents filed with the county register of deeds and directs the register of deeds to redact social security numbers from electronic format records that are viewable or accessible on the Internet. Any monies collected are to be used for real estate use only, and has enabled us to make available more documents electronically as well as the indexes. Door County has not made the tract indexes available as of this time, but we are hoping to in the near future.

Extract: You have been the Register of Deeds for almost ten years. What has changed in the Register’s office over that time?

Petersilka: We began offering escrow accounts to businesses or individuals to view/print real estate documents recorded in our office. The Door County Register of Deeds office has begun to electronically record documents, reducing the amount of paper used within the office. We currently work with two vendors who submit the documents to us from outside entities for recording. The entire recording process is paperless. Through this type of recording we are not only going “green”, we have also saved on postage, and helped in the timelines needed for the returning of recorded documents. Going forward, along the same lines of less paper and more efficiency, we also accept Real Estate document requests and Vital Record requests online with payment by credit card. This saves the public time and postage, as well as reducing the County’s costs. With the Real Estate documents, we no longer mail those documents and are able to email the document directly back to the customer with much efficiency. The federally-mandated Real ID Act has resulted in many changes in how we issue vital records. We no longer issue vital records for birth and death from our paper records. We now retrieve these records from the State Vital Record Information System. We went online with the State February 1, 2011, without any issues.

Extract: Many Wisconsin counties have digitized their historic records. Has Door County converted its historical documents into electronic images? Why is this type of conversion important?

Petersilka: Our documents are all backed up on film, and stored in an offsite location. We have digitized many records dating back to 1966, which eases accessibility with the public and any entity that may have a need. Technological advances have changed the method by which many of us do business including the Register of Deeds Office. From paper, to microfilm, to digital, documents are processed and accessed at speeds that allow us to keep up to date in today’s fast paced economy.With the above technologies, the public, including realtors, title companies, surveyors, and attorneys are able to retrieve information through Internet access from the public terminals, housed in the Register of Deeds office. The Register of Deeds office is the custodian for all real estate records, and must maintain them from the beginning. We have documents that date back to the 1850s.

Extract: You are a Door County native. What do you love most about living and working there? 

Petersilka: I don’t think those of us who live here realize how lucky we are. The assortment of wildlife, the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, the many State Parks, as well as County Parks, the arts, wineries, golf courses and I could go on and on……and I can’t fail to mention the beautiful winters with many miles of snowmobile and cross country trails. There just isn’t anything to not love about Door County. My husband and I raised our two children here, and wouldn’t have done it any other way.

Extract: You’re involved with the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association. How has serving in various roles supported you and your team?

Petersilka: I previously served as the District Chair which brought with it a lot of knowledge that I was able to share with my office and District. Currently, I’m the Third Vice Chair of the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association and will soon be elected to the seat of Second Vice Chair. I’m also involved in the Legislative Committee, which just recently guided the passage of AB-592 relating to: solicitation of a fee by a business or individual for a public record, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty, and was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on April 8th, 2014 as ACT 247. This legislation requires non-government agencies to specify there is no requirement to purchase a public record or deed from them, list what government agency does provide that record, and include the pricing of that government agency.

About the Author: Greg Gies

For 20 years in the software industry, Greg Gies has been helping businesses, government agencies and healthcare organizations achieve their goals and carry out their missions by making better use of information and automating business processes. Greg has held positions in sales, product management and marketing and holds an MBA from Babson College.