Paper chase 

Leaky roof threatens treasures among the trash

Important El Paso County public records and historic documents could be among boxes of paper trash in a facility with a leaky roof and a potential rodent problem, top county officials complained this week.

"I honestly can't tell you what's there," said Terry Harris, El Paso County administrator, about the county's main document archive facility at 305 S. Union Blvd.

He also said he had no idea how many storage facilities the county currently operates, and acknowledged that files are collected in a bewildering way.

It's enough to make a bureaucrat tear his hair out.

"The records are, for the most part, public records and should be available to our offices and the public," said County Assessor John Bass. "How absurd does it have to get out there to take a leadership role?"

Some of the records are legally destroyable, Bass said, but others could be historic documents dating back to the time when Colorado was a territory.

Because the document center cannot meet the needs of all county departments, he said, at least one department has begun contracting with a private storage company.

"It's a huge problem," Harris said. "It's been a problem for years."

Commissioner Sallie Clark said one solution would be to convert the now-empty Metro Detention Center into the equivalent of a huge filing cabinet, even opening a public display wing.

"You can't do it," Harris said, explaining that the floors of Metro aren't constructed to hold dead weight.

The county, he said, has only two alternatives: outsource the county's records to a facility out of state, or build a new facility.

The Board of County Commissioners will discuss the matter on July 11, but Harris predicted that nothing would happen because of scant available funds and because the issue is "not very sexy."

-- Dan Wilcock


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