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York County records damaged by stormwater

By Jie Jenny Zou
jzou@heraldonline.com

YORK Recent storms flooded a storage room at the McCelvey Center, damaging a collection of York County records last weekend, according to a court official

Debbie Norman, deputy clerk for the county’s register of deeds office, opened the doors to a storage facility Sunday and found dozens of moist cardboard boxes containing books of dampened pages.

“I’m devastated, I really am,” Norman said.

It was by chance that Norman even discovered that the 700-square-foot room at the McCelvey Center had flooded, since the room is not regularly monitored.

By Norman’s estimates, the temporary storage room houses at least 12,000 bound books containing real estate records. Records range in size from letter-size notices from the 1990s to larger historical books, which can weigh several pounds and date back to the early 1900s.

All the records have some kind of backup copy, whether digital or physical, but Norman said the loss of the older records is the most troubling as they were original copies of land surveys and are of historical value for the county.

The records were just one collection of several that were recently moved out of the York County Courthouse, which is being renovated.

“I’m really frightened that I’m going to have a mold problem,” Norman said of the McCelvey room, which is being used for storage until another facility opens up on West Liberty Street in York.

The property records stored at McCelvey are accessed less frequently than those primarily housed in the Belk Building, which did not experience flooding since records are stored at street level, Norman said.

Last weekend’s flooding wasn’t as damaging as an incident in late 2007, Norman said, when records had to be shipped out of state to be freeze-dried after a custodian left a sink running overnight.

On Monday morning, Norman quickly alerted the building manager to the flooded storage room. Fans and dehumidifiers were quickly set up to dry the room and its contents. In the meantime, the records remain in the room and no alternate location has been slated.

David Larson of internal services in the County Manager’s Office said he hopes there will not be any more problems with other record storage locations. The office is prepared to consider alternatives if necessary, he said.

But for Clerk of Court David Hamilton, the flooding at McCelvey represents a larger problem when it comes to where to house York County’s documents.

“They’re literally scattered everywhere, which I’m not pleased about, but it is what it is,” Hamilton said.

“I’m concerned that the county of York cannot find a place that we can be proud to use to store these things in a controlled environment,” he said. “My office is not the only one that has this problem; this is a countywide problem.”

The decision to store the documents at McCelvey was one of logistics, Norman said. The center is county property, and there were no nearby private storage alternatives.

“It’s not looking good,” she said. “I got a feeling these books are going to be in storage for a long time.”

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