HANOVER TWP. — Luzerne County residents can now research property assessment records, real estate deeds and some other government documents in Hanover Township instead of traveling to the courthouse and annex in Wilkes-Barre.
Five public computer viewing stations have been set up at the county’s new records storage facility, which was unveiled at a grand opening Friday night.
The computers also provide access to some more recent marriage license, estate and civil court filings. More old computerized records of particular interest to genealogy researchers are expected to be added in coming years as part of ongoing scanning projects, officials said.
If warranted by public response, additional research stations can be added.
Located in a former U.S. mail property at 85 Young St., the facility is at the center of the county and may be more convenient to some citizens, said county Records Manager Edward Kovalski.
“Sometimes parking is tough at the courthouse,” he said.
The county spent $2.75 million to buy and renovate the property, which also houses the county coroner’s office and a morgue.
Annual operating costs for the new, climate-controlled building will be $59,384, compared to the previous $103,104 to lease a Wilkes-Barre building that was deemed insufficient for record storage due to leaks and temperature extremes, county Manager C. David Pedri has said.
The new facility will protect records for the next generation, Pedri said. State law requires the retention of many of these records, including original documents dating to the late 1800s, even if there is a digital copy.
“These records tell the story of Luzerne County, so we need to make sure they’re properly cared for,” said Pedri.
Now that records have been organized and sorted in the new facility, the county has implemented a comprehensive schedule to regularly scan and destroy documents as retention periods expire, Kovalski said. More than 1,600 boxes of records have been shredded since the site started receiving material.
“We should never run out of space because we’re purging constantly,” he said.
The building contains 235,000 cubic feet of record storage space on shelving and racks, and approximately 120,000 cubic feet is occupied.
Documents from 19 departments are labeled with unique identification numbers when they arrive so they can be tracked and quickly retrieved through a master index Kovalski has created.
Numerous comparison photos of the previous leased building and the new facility throughout renovation have been posted on the records facility section at www.luzernecounty.org.
The facility is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 570-825-1862 for more information.
A fee on recorded deeds that generates approximately $7,000 per month is expected to cover utility costs and some other operational expenses for the new site.
The coroner’s office and morgue occupy 3,000 square feet of the 30,000 square-foot facility, Kovalski said.
The addition of a morgue ended the county’s reliance on Wilkes-Barre General Hospital to store bodies that can’t be transported to a funeral home due to pending investigations or delays in identifying the deceased and notifying survivors, officials have said.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.