Access in Middletown
By Anthony P. Fiore, Mayor
& Heidi Brunt, Township Clerk
Middletown was facing many of the common challenges that most municipalities face. The number of OPRA requests were increasing. Meanwhile, our overstuffed files where reaching a breaking point. We were avoiding archiving for fear of losing documents. We also needed a way to keep track of the destruction dates of disposed records while maintaining a list of the documents in storage and our archives.
In the end our township chose to enter in a Shared
Services program with the County of Monmouth. The arrangement provides us with the comprehensive records management capability to address increased needs for access to records while reducing costs associated with the storage and archival of records.
Prior to joining the county’s records management system, Middletown Township Clerk Heidi Brunt, IT Director Todd Costello, and Records Manager Melissa Hesler established key requirements for a records management solution that included the capability to maintain inventory of all boxed physical records (paper, audio-visual tapes, microfilm, etc.) and a capability to scan paper records as digital records (TIFF file format). The group sought to meet the New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management’s (DARM) record retention policy and create an audit trail of any changes and/or disposition of records. Above all, the township sought to meet NJ-DARM’s certification requirements for an imaging system.
Middletown’s team first explored vendor products and off-the-shelf solutions. They discovered that the products were either too expensive or complex in nature to implement. The team also considered developing an in-house system, but this approach would have required a significant investment in time and effort, not to mention, coordinating with the state for DARM’s records retention policies and disposition management process.
During this period, Monmouth County was working to develop a Shared Services Records Management solution through Sunrise Systems of Metuchen. Middletown Township chose to partner with Monmouth County’s Office of Records Management in the development and the implementation of the Records Information Management (RIM) System.
Partnering with the county allowed Middletown to provide input and feedback in shaping the solution to meet the township’s workflow and other needs.
dditionally, as a Shared Services program, many of the costs were shared with the county and were largely funded through the NJ Department of State’s PARIS grants program.
Furthermore, the county provided the central IT infrastructure for the system and continues to host, operate and backup the system. Another valuable aspect of this partnership was the Monmouth County Archives Department’s offer to store many archival and historical records of the municipalities at the county’s archives facility.
The system from Sunrise Systems has supported the township’s efforts to manage all records, physical and electronic, as per the DARM records retention and disposition policies. The goal is to support the needs of all critical departments in the township including the Mayor’s office, Municipal Clerk’s office and the departments of Building and Planning, Health, Police, Finance, and Administration.
Middletown Township initiated a pilot rollout of the system starting with the Township Clerk’s Office in 2008. After two to three months, the system was certified for Imaging and Scanning by NJ-DARM in 2009. Since then:
- the Township Clerk’s office has formalized records management to help train the township staff in the system use and to promulgate records management policies and procedures;
- Middletown has developed an imaging and destruction workflow that has been rolled out to ten additional departments including Building, Construction, Planning, Health and others;
- we’ve improved our ability to purge records at the end of life and freed up valuable storage space (This past year, 150 boxes of records were purged);
- general filing is not overflowing, and there is improved organization and details for archived records; and
- access to records for in-house needs and to satisfy OPRA requests and other evolving legislation on Transparency in Government has greatly improved.
The Sunrise RIM System has created universal workflow for cradle to grave records management that can be used in any municipal department with user friendly and intelligent software. The RIM System has saved us time and money when it comes to research and destruction of records. The system has saved many hours of research in the Clerk’s Office and now when we need documents we receive them the same day.
Middletown Township attributes the program’s success to several key factors. First, buy-in from the Mayor, Township Committee and Township Administrator was extremely important for the project’s success. Prior to signing the agreement, the Township Clerk offered the governing body a tour of the records archives to demonstrate the dire necessity to have a program dedicated to the retention/ destruction and imaging of records in the township.
Our governing body and the administrators also toured a facility already up and running with the Archives and Records Department and an effective records management solution. We also documented the savings provided by rented storage facilities once records are destroyed as per DARM’s retention policies.
In the end, the pressures of OPRA in a township which receives hundreds of requests a year was a convincing argument for this program. The program has not only helped improve efficiency in the township clerk’s office, but has also provided an effective records management system. Our shared services partnership with the county was a great way to ensure the project’s success, and has led to other shared services initiatives that serve the general public and businesses.
For more information on Middletown Township’s Records Management program, please contact Ms. Heidi Brunt, Township Clerk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (732) 615 2014. To learn more about Sunrise Systems products and services, call Sunrise at (732) 603-2200 or visit www.sunrisesys.com
Originally published in New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 6, June 2012