Beacon Falls looks to digitize documents

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BEACON FALLS — Space is getting tight at Town Hall for all the documents the town has to keep on file.

“We have to keep certain records for long periods of time and were out of space. We can’t keep all the documents we have,” said First Selectman Gerard Smith during the Board of Selectmen’s Sept. 10 meeting.

Smith said he has been looking into having the town use an online storage system through the company DocSTAR for all of the documents. This would both preserve the documents and help save space in Town Hall.

“We have stuff downstairs from the ‘30s and ‘40s that we can put online and destroy and get rid of,” Smith said. “With new stuff, certain items we have to keep paper for a certain amount of time, but most of the items that come into Town Hall now can be paper or can become a document on the computer and discarded. So we don’t even have to keep paper here anymore.”

Once the documents are scanned in, Smith told the residents it would be easier to access the data on a computer.

“You can load everything that’s in those filing cabinets, even the maps. Everything gets loaded down onto the computer. Everything becomes automated. … It creates a file. Everything is on the computer, backed up in three different locations,” Smith said.

According to Smith, DocSTAR presented two options to him. The company will either come in and scan all of the town’s documents or they will just set up the program and the town can scan all of the documents itself.

Smith said the upfront cost for the program would be approximately $5,500. If the town wanted DocSTAR to do all of the scanning, it would cost an additional $27,000.

“Yes, it is $27,000, but that is with them coming in and doing all the work. All we have to do is put it up,” Smith said. “They estimated approximately 300,000 pages would need to be scanned. We can scan that ourselves.”

According to Jared Mostoller, who works in DocSTAR’s marketing department, the amount of time it will take to scan the documents can vary a lot.

“It depends on the capacity of the scanner,” Mostoller said. “That’s where you’ll get the bottleneck.”

If the town is using a regular desktop scanner, it will only be able to scan a few documents per minute. Using the highest end scanner that DocSTAR provides, the town would be able to scan up to 100 documents per minute, he said.

Mostoller explained that one gigabyte of storage space could hold approximately 20,000 documents that were black and white and 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

Since the town’s 300,000 documents include large maps, it would need over 15 gigabytes of space to start with, and would continue to need more space as it acquired more documents, Mostoller explained.

Smith said the lack of storage was not the only reason he was looking into putting the documents online.

Smith said the town is also experiencing a problem with the safe that holds the documents. The safe needs to be temperature controlled, which is monitored by the state.

“Some of the summer days we had down here, the temperature in the basement, in the town clerk’s office, was 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity,” Smith said. “We have to do something with our ventilation system so we can stay in compliance. We have to do something with our documents that we store. So this is the way.”

In a subsequent interview after the meeting, Smith said the town had not taken any action on the issue yet.

“It’s getting to be a lot more expensive than we thought,” Smith said.

Smith said the town would need the company to scan the documents to be able to get them into the system in a timely manner, which would bring the additional $27,000 into play.

“It is something we’ll put into next year’s budget,” Smith said.

Smith explained that, while the town hall was tight on space, it would be able to hold out until the next budget.

“We are beyond capacity but not so bad we can’t last another 10 months,” Smith said.