GRAFTON COUNTY REGISTRY OF DEEDS
Kelley Jean Monahan Register Annual Report Fiscal Year 2022
To the Citizens of Grafton County, the Board of Commissioners and Delegation Members:
Fiscal year 2022 began with a flurry of activity on special projects to protect the data base. I had just received approval from the Grafton County Delegation to proceed with a microfilm conversion project which would provide the ideal triple redundancy in official public record retention; paper, digital and micro-film. Having stabilized the paper and fully protected the digital data base with the assistance and excellence of our industry partner, Fidlar Technologies, we could focus on disaster preparedness by securing two copies of the entire data base; close to five million digitized images.
As we began the process, I reassessed the situation. American Rescue Plan Act/ARPA had recently been announced and it was becoming increasingly apparent that the Registries of Deeds across the country were about to be acknowledged as essential operations. I paused the microfilm project to pursue ARPA fund requests from the Board of Commissioners and the Delegation. This request would cause delay, however, if the second project of media conversion would be approved, we could produce a higher quality image than we were capable of in-house and complete the work using very large pyramid scanners and avoiding the dismantling of the historic books in addition to the benefit of the enhancement of the images by importing in color vs black and white.
I sought approval for a scanning project to be completed by US Imaging with Fidlar Technologies as acting oversight. I was granted approval in October and on December 10, 2021, two teams from US Imaging set up using high tech scanning equipment working two, twelve hour shifts over 10 days completing the scanning of our gap years; 1890-1930 and scanning the older indices. This two fold plan would provide a full digital data base and a full microfilm data base of every document ever recorded here dating from 1774 to present day. That plan has been realized. Both projects combined came to a total of $350,000.00 out of the 17 million granted to Grafton County. If this project was done in-house, on down time, it would have taken years and would have required us to cut covers and scan individual pages from historic, leather books. This would have been a tragedy and one that I was grateful to avoid.
In November a long standing dispute was finally coming to Grafton County Superior Court. It is the Register of Deeds’ duty to produce the original document in the court of law when ordered. I produced an original plan which pre-dated plat law to settle a civil dispute. The original was in question, not a digitized image. This is the foundation of why we retain the original physical copy and why it is critical that we always protect the original physical version of the registry copy.
COVID emergency orders had created an acceleration of pace for an industry already operating at rocket speed. The New Hampshire Land Surveyors Association/NHLSA and many NH Planning Boards had questioned why the NH Registers worked to create an exemption from legislation which would have allowed electronic signatures on plats and surveys. Working pro-actively, as President of NH Registers of Deeds, I scheduled a Zoom meeting with the NHLSA to listen, work through concerns, to provide answers and a path forward. That platform and discussion was so well received that the New Hampshire Department of Strategic Initiatives and I worked to create a “Learn at Lunch” webinar for early December. We had over 120 participates from planning boards and surveyors from across the state join to conversation and begin to understand the complexities, technological requirements and the need to prepare and plan for conversions together. This open dialogue has been very productive and I will be speaking to the NHLSA at their quarterly meeting in December of 2022 to continue the conversation.
In February we launched two new automations which greatly increase efficiency. Laredo Connect is a billing automation for our accounts and municipalities which allows them to verify and track their copy charges. This saves staff time in answering billing questions, reduces operating costs on mailing billing statements. Monarch is a streaming service to the municipalities. Under RSA 478:14 Copies of Conveyances for Tax Purposes, the registries are required to forward all documents to the towns on transfer of property for correct taxation. With the assistance of Fidlar Technologies and the cooperation of each Town Tax Collector, a portal was installed on the Tax Collector’s computer which provides a constant stream of documents representing changes in transfer of ownership or interest in real property.
Having now served 6 terms and acting as Vice President and President of the NH Register of Deeds Association, in my opinion, the transitions in law, technology and consolidation of industries has been unprecedented. Not since the invention of the ball point pen has there been this much controversy for our offices. A great deal of my time and energy is spent testifying and consulting on legislation which affects the operation of these offices.
We continue to provide in person assistance to our public who does not have access to the internet or the computer skills to research independently. My team and I help guide people through complicated processes. In challenging economic times, the need for assistance increases as many people do not have the ability to hire legal representation and are forced to become their own advocates. It seems that the public is concerned with deed fraud based on a television campaign to sell a product. Deed fraud does happen, but it is not common. Our industry partner, Fidlar Technologies, offers a free, secure service called Property Fraud Alert. Information on this notification service can be found at our website at NHdeeds.org.
FY22 Revenue Total $1,385,320.53
RETT Recording Fees Online Services LCHIP Copies Postage Interest Tapestry
$679,533.52 $522,012.03 $41,121.25 $14,649.00 $95,140.00 $2,868.58 $2,307.14 $26,865.80
Our office recorded 19,797 documents to the Official Public Record in FY2022, down slightly from a high of 22,871 in FY2021. I attribute this decrease to the decline of the refinance activity that was associated with the pandemic. In this fiscal year our office received, processed and redistributed $18,082,742.38 to NH DRA, LCHIP and Grafton County.
FY22 closed with a $167,820.53 surplus over our anticipated revenue goal of $1,217,500.00, which is appropriated to the general fund to help offset the tax burden of our citizens.
Kelley Jean Monahan Register of Deeds