Courthouse worker faces mountain of records to digitize
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Dec 27, 2013 | 2969 views |  0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alisha Epps gets files to scan in the basement at the Calhoun County Courthouse. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Alisha Epps gets files to scan in the basement at the Calhoun County Courthouse. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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Trying to find a stored-away court document at the Calhoun County Courthouse can be a challenge.

That’s what Alisha Epps said she’s learned in the few months since she started working at the Circuit Clerk’s Office. Paper court documents and files take up so much space at the courthouse, they’ve spilled over next door into a former warehouse rented out just to house boxes of old files.

“It’s a pretty creepy place,” said Epps, the part-time Circuit Clerk’s office employee who spends large portions of her day scanning the files in the endless rows of boxes. “I mean, it’s right next to the morgue.”

Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson said if he could hire a full-time staff to work around the clock scanning paper court documents into easier-to-access electronic files, the job still wouldn’t be completed in his lifetime. But he doesn’t have the budget for a full-time staff to do the job. He just has Epps.

“Everything is going electronic now,” Henderson said. “Now we just scan files electronically when we get them, but that doesn’t do us any good for all the old files we have.”

Epps was hired by the Circuit Clerk's Office in October for a role that Henderson said has been needed for years. Every day, Epps works through the boxes of paper files at the courthouse, scanning them so they can be filed electronically.

“I try to be careful,” Epps said. “These files could be really important for someone if this is on their record and they need it.”

There are three storage areas for the files. The first is a room on the second floor of the Calhoun County Courthouse with movable shelves filled with boxes of files, some dating back to the early 1990s. The second room is in the basement, and labeled on the door as “the dungeon.” Files down there date to the 1920s in some cases. And finally, there’s the whole back room across the street from the courthouse, an entire building’s worth of files.

After two months working part-time at the courthouse, Epps has almost finished filing one row of boxes on one shelf in one of the storage rooms. She said if she worked full-time for the rest of her life, she still probably wouldn't make a dent in eliminating the massive amount of paper files in storage.

“There’s really no way of knowing how many files are here,” Epps said. “I can’t even count.”

Henderson said he's always found the files when someone requests them. But the task can still be time-consuming, both for the employees in his office and the public who make the requests.

“That’s the problem,” Henderson said. “We want everything to be accessible. Easier for us, easier for them.”

And easier for Epps or whoever might take her job, so they have fewer trips to the dungeon and the morgue.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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