Saline County records now online

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published August 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 16, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
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Hannah Keller

Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan demonstrates the county’s new One-Stop-Shop website, which makes finding public records easier. The program, developed by Milligan, allows access to many of the county’s public records, including deeds, liens, mortgages, taxes and court proceedings.

BENTON — Carrie Marrow of Garland County spends a lot of time online. She isn’t freshening her Facebook page; she is searching out the history of real estate for a title company.

On Wednesday, Marrow was at the Saline County Courthouse, but she could just have easily been working at home.

“I’m having to go back 30 years, and with some properties, those records are not all online yet,” she said. “But I do a lot of this work at home, now that Saline County has gone online.”

She said the title company requires her to check county records of a property for the past 10 years.

“We look to see if there are any liens or judgements against the property, and that all the mortgages are paid,” Marrow said. “We want to make sure the buyers have a clean title on the property.”

Saline County residents, title companies like the one in Little Rock that employs Marrow or anyone with a computer can access a storehouse of official records from their computers with a new One-Stop-Shop page that went online Aug. 8.

Six elected Saline County officials announced the launching of the new Internet site, www.salinerecords.com, which gives free, open access to the county’s public records.

“Since I took office, I have never thought the comment, ‘That’s the way we have always done it’ was an acceptable reason for how things were done,” Circuit Court Clerk Dennis Milligan said. “I have always wanted a more results-oriented government.”

The clerk not only keeps the records of the circuit-court proceedings in Saline County; Milligan acts as the ex officio recorder for the county. He is responsible for records such as deeds, mortgages, liens, bonds and other documents that involve property in the county.

He said Tax Assessor Jim Crawford and Tax Collector Joy Ballard have made their records available on the website as well. The records kept by County Clerk Doug Curtis and Treasurer Larry Davis are now being added to the online collection.

“Rather than having a person need to know which office has a public record,” County Judge Lanny Fite said at the announcement of the launch, “the Web page asks what record is being sought and then brings up the site where the record is available.”

Milligan said county officials have worked together to make their records available. Having the records online could also reduce the number of phone calls to county offices.

“I got a call this morning with a woman asking if her husband has sued for divorce,” said Jim Harris, chief of staff for the circuit clerk. “I looked, and he hadn’t, and told her she could use the website to check from home.”

Harris said the the plan is to scan as many county records as possible into digital files that can be viewed online.

“The records go back more than 100 years,” he said. “We are in a race against time with some of the oldest records — they are deteriorating.”

While the website can be reached from any Internet connection, Milligan’s office at the courthouse has computers that can be used by the public. Marrow was doing her research on one of those computers.

“We even have an extra-wide screen monitor for those who might need to see larger print,” Milligan said.

To demonstrate the system, he put in his own name and checked the records of the county tax collector. The record showed his home,

investment properties and a partnership he is involved in and indicated that he had paid taxes for all of them.

“If you are running for office, you better not have something to hide in the tax records,” Milligan said. “The records are all open to the public.”

Beyond the real estate and court-related uses of the digital documents, Milligan said, people will be able to look back at the history of their homes, or if they are looking for information on an ancestor from Saline County, they can see the land and tax records.”

Employees of the circuit clerk’s office try to work every day to scan documents and make them available on the website.

“If it is slow, some folks can work all day on it; it just depends on how busy we are,” Milligan said. “To the best of my knowledge, we are the first county [in Arkansas] to do this. I would suspect that in a few years, all the counties will be doing this.”

It was Milligan’s idea, and he worked to develop the program for the county. This is not his first computer idea to be used by the county. He also introduced a program to notify county residents selected for jury duty.

“Today is a good example of how the system works,” he said. “We had a trial set for today, and we had notified 66 possible jurors. The trial was cancelled after 5 p.m., and we notified them electronically, and only three showed up.”

Milligan explained that the three who did not get their message and came to the courthouse cost the county $75. Under the former system, all or most of the 66 selected would have shown up, costing the county $1,650.

“Sending a notification costs only $5, and since we started this in 2011, it has saved the county $14,000 in jury costs. That’s enough to pay mileage to those jurors who have to come for duty. If someone from Hot Springs Village or East End has to drive here to Benton, it can cost them most of the jury pay they get. Now we can pay mileage without it costing any additional money.”

Milligan said another Arkansas county has started using the program, and several more have expressed interest in it.

“It’s not rocket science,” Harris said. “It just seems nobody ever thought of it before.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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