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Is Presidio tired of waiting for access to county records?

April 27th, 2017 under Top Stories

By CAMERON DODD

cameron@bigbendnow.com

PRESIDIO — Although little action was taken at Tuesday’s Presidio County Commissioner’s Court meeting, the gathering succeeded in rousing an at-times tense discussion over long awaited access to digital records at the Presidio Courthouse Annex in Presidio.

Commissioners Court postponed action on bids received for county document management services at the recommendation of County Judge Cinderela Guevara. Although the meeting was held in Presidio, the two commissioners from south Presidio County, Lorenzo Hernandez and Eloy Aranda, were both absent.

Voting on the bids also was postponed until the next county meeting, May 9, after County Clerk Virginia Pallarez voiced concern over her exclusion from the bid review committee.

Pallarez has long expressed reluctance over digitizing the county’s records. When the county was approached last September by S&K Software about providing cloud storage services for the county, Pallarez told commissioners court she already has a system in place for most of her office’s records. That system, however, only has property deeds and select other records in electronic file going back to around 2000.

Pallarez also requested in March that commissioners sign a resolution opposing a statewide effort to centralize storage and access to court records. The system, known as re:SearchTX, would create an online portal for county records to be accessed remotely. At the time, Pallarez told commissioners it would result in loss of local control and the $1 per page in revenue her office generates.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Pallarez again raised questions about the services provided by the document management companies that bid for the county’s contract. Pallarez said she worries about who S&K would hire to scan the records because they contain personal information such as social security numbers.

“In between now and May 9 what I would like to do is have the county clerk be able to look at these proposals so we don’t miss any critical information she may have,” Guevara said. “I really believe she should have had some input since the majority of records will come from her office.”

City of Presidio special projects manager Carlos Nieto, the only city employee or official present at Tuesday’s meeting, pressed the county to be more proactive about digital records.

Currently, there is no easy way for Presidio and other south county residents to access clerk’s office records without driving all the way to Marfa or waiting for them to come in the mail.

The Presidio County Courthouse Annex on O’Reilly Street in Presidio even lacks access to court records.

“This annex was built in 1993, we’ve only been waiting 23 years for clerk services…” Nieto said. “It is a painful, shameful experience that the county government is not responsive to the needs of our people in south county by providing clerk services. Asking our stakeholders, the elderly, the poor to travel 120 miles for birth certificate, death certificates, legal documents borders on being criminal.”

Nieto urged the county to prioritize finding the resources to provide digital record access to south county residents.

“I think we need to look a proactive solutions,” Nieto said. “We in south county feel it’s good to be loved when it’s near election time for county officials, but it’s not a good feel [sic] when you get in there and don’t solve problems… We’re paying our fair share and we’re not getting the services.”

The insinuation that they do not really care about the people of Presidio for more than votes appeared to put some of the court on the defensive. Judge Guevara brought up the five year plans the county is working on with the intention of closing gaps in access to services.

“I don’t feel that I don’t want to serve the people of Presidio,” Guevara said. “Do you feel that way Mr. [Loretto] Vasquez? Do you feel that way Commissioner Bentley? How about you, do you feel that way [County Clerk Virginia Pallarez]?

“We’re trying to make things happen,” Commissioner Brenda Silva Bentley said. “We don’t not want to serve Presidio. We understand the importance of Presidio. We love Presidio.”

The commissioners weighed the possibility of having a clerk’s office employee in Presidio once a week to certify record’s requests or having other county employees who commute to from Presidio to Marfa transport records. They ultimately tabled the discussion until their May 9 meeting in Marfa.

The commissioners court also postponed taking action on their agenda’s two other action items, including approving the county’s Code of Ethics.

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