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Don't look now, but County Recorder's office is going online

The Becker County Recorder's Office is going digital, one step at a time, and for those in the home mortgage business, it's the greatest thing since the latest Fed rate cut.

Becker County Recorder Darlene Manavel went before the County Board Tuesday to talk about progress in electronic recording: In a few months, the recorder's office will be electronically recording assignments of mortgage, satisfaction of mortgage and certificates of release.

That will save a lot of time for banks, title companies and attorneys, she said.

"Within minutes they will be able to complete what it takes weeks to do now," she said.

The $46 recording fee is set by statute, and will be the same for electronic recording work as it is for traditional paper recording, Maneval told the county board on Tuesday.

Fifteen to 20 Minnesota counties have already adopted electronic recording, and commissioners gave their blessing to Becker County following suit when the information technology department can complete the necessary work.

Maneval also got the go-ahead to "sell" access to the recorder's office public indexing system. This program, too, she hopes to have operational within a few months.

For $25 a month, a customer will be able to research records, look up deeds and mortgages, and have direct access to the recorder's office public index.

People will be able to search by name, legal description, parcel number, date, document type or a half dozen other search fields. They will be able to pull up a full image of the document.

For $50 a month, they will be able to print out a copy of the document, which is otherwise blocked from printing, Maneval said. There is a one-time set-up fee of $50 for the service.

That's to help pay for setting up accounts at the county auditor-treasurer's office, since customers will be expected to pay for several months in advance, with a check or money order, Maneval said. "I don't want to get into a position of them getting behind in their payments," she said in an interview.

The program will run on a separate system so that it doesn't slow down the county's computer network.

Maneval says she is counting on her department's software company, Computer Software Associates, Inc. of Billings, Mont., which has proved more than capable in the past.

"I love my software company," she said, adding that the software has already been paid for, and just needs to be installed. The company will contact potential users and sell them on using the electronic recording option.

Maneval thinks it could be an easy sell, since the process is "extremely secure," and some companies are heavy users of the county recorder's office and call frequently for assistance. There's a "huge interest" from customers in other states like California, Florida and Texas, she added.

"We work all day long -- the staff is working constantly to answer questions," she said. "It will keep us from being tied up on the phone for hours looking for that unimaginable piece of information."

The county attorney's office has reviewed the "remote access" plan and "got it written in a manner I think businesses can handle," Maneval said.

Other units of government will be able to access the information at no charge.

The county's information technology committee is "moving towards bringing technology as far as we can, as soon as we can," Maneval told the board.

"I'm ready to roll," she said in an interview. "The county (IT department) has a couple of server issues they need to take care of first."