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Registry of Deeds prepares to move

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Register of Deeds Scott Cote and Deputy Assistant Register Jennifer Wood get the computers up and running in the new temporary location of the Registry on Olive St in Greenfield.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Register of Deeds Scott Cote and Deputy Assistant Register Jennifer Wood get the computers up and running in the new temporary location of the Registry on Olive St in Greenfield.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Registry of Deeds on Olive St

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Registry of Deeds on Olive St

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Register of Deeds Scott Cote and Deputy Assistant Register Jennifer Wood get the computers up and running in the new temporary location of the Registry on Olive St in Greenfield.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Registry of Deeds on Olive St

GREENFIELD — It won’t be far that the Franklin County Registry of Deeds is moving as of next week, from its home of 80 years. But the move to temporary quarters at 30 Olive St. marks a significant step for reconstruction of the Franklin County Courthouse.

With preparations and training sessions taking place over the last few weeks, Register Scott A. Cote said the registry plans to close at the courthouse today at 4:30 p.m. and reopen Monday at 8:30 a.m. at its new 2,800-square-foot space on Olive Street, to provide uninterrupted service.

The move represents the first courthouse function to move to temporary quarters for the $60 million courthouse reconstruction, which is expected to begin in January, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Capital Asset Management. Construction is projected to take two to five years, and most court functions are expected to be temporarily relocated later this year to leased space at the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street.

The newly relocated registry space, while lacking the feeling of opulent spaciousness of the current 4,300-square-foot, marble-accented registry, does boast custom-built ash counters with mahogany trim behind which eight registry workers at individual stations will be available to help customers file and search for real estate deeds, titles, subdivision plans, mortgage documents and other recordings.

“Were happy,” said Register Scott A. Cote, who assumed the office in January and has been preparing for the move ever since. “It’s clean, it’s nice, it’s new. I think the staff will make the facility rather than the facility making the staff.”

The new space, although smaller than the registry that’s been in the 1932 courthouse, will have eight computer workstations for the public — one of them designed to be handicapped accessible — as well as four work tables for the public to use their own laptops and the registry’s wireless system.

Behind the counter area are three cashier counters where users can record documents and plans and get information from staff, who will also have access to the bound grantee-grantor index. The index includes detailed information about transactions, which saves anyone researching transactions several steps.

“My users are screaming that they want them,” said Cote. “And as an attorney who’s used the registry, I want them.”

Although the registry has spent the past dozen years transferring thousands of volumes to digital files, all of which are accessible online, there are still 700 volumes being brought to the new facility to be digitized, in part because it’s difficult for people to read the notations that are in the margins.

The original volumes have been archived in Boston and at the Worcester Northern District registry in Fitchburg as part of a statewide effort to “go book-less,” said Cote, and to allow more space for the registries.

“Many, many fellow registers have been cooperating and fighting,” Cote said, “because they understand the dynamics of having the plans and books readily available to people, because not everything in the computer is perfect. “Without the ability to look at a full-sized plan, it’s very hard to read the bounds and descriptions. So we’re now finding we have to provide more prints for people, where we blow them up on the screen and put that on the copier to let people see.”

In addition to lawyers and title examiners who use the facility, Cote said, “We have quite a few residents — more than I ever anticipated — who actually come in to look at neighboring properties, if they’re looking to buy or subdivide a property.”

Although most of the documents were digitized by staff, some were outsourced, creating errors that have to be corrected when they’re discovered by users.

The new space feels subterranean, since the ground floor is essentially the basement on the Hope Street side, so there’s a feeling that the registry truly is all about the land.

“I brought a few title examiners over,” Cote said in the new space as a computer technician worked to prepare the new network. “It will be quite an adjustment, but it should be more effective,” with staff doing more searching for the public and re-scanning when errors are discovered.

The registry will have separate rooms for its microfilm collection and for land documents, including assessors’ maps as well as a scanner that can handle plans up to 36 inches in length. There are also offices for the register and his assistant, a computer room and a staff room.

Much of those amenities would be lost if the registry has to return to the 1,700 square-foot space that’s been arranged for the registry in the greatly expanded courthouse by DCAM and the state’s Trial Court, said Cote.

“The courthouse is going to be 2½ to three times bigger, and they plan to reduce us from 4,300 to 1,700 square feet,” he said. “The staff doesn’t even have a bathroom in the proposed space. My central focus for seven to eight months now has been where the permanent office will end up.”

Cote, who was effectively elected in the primary election last September because there was no Republican challenger, said he began working then with the Secretary of State’s office — which oversees the registry facilities — to express his concern about having too little space in the new courthouse. “Very little has moved since then” as far DCAM finding additional room for the registry.

“That space is 1,700 square feet and this is 2,800,” Cote said of the Olive Street space on which there’s a three-year lease with an option to renew for two years. “We’re struggling to get in here.”

One thing that’s been partially accomplished by Cote, who believes the registry and probate court belong together, is to arrange a probate clerk’s computer at the registry, with a registry computer already at the probate clerk’s office, “so you don’t have to travel to Munson Street and worry that something’s been filed between the time you left and have been traveling here.”

The state signed its lease with the owner of the Munson Street property, which now has to be renovated to fit the specifications for a temporary courthouse space and be completed before construction begins on the Main Street courthouse.

You can reach Richie Davis at:
rdavis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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