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City hall tames beastly paper problem that grew over 80 years

The City of Moose Jaw's corporate records accumulated in the basement at city hall for eight decades before the city clerk's office began a three-year project to digitize all the records

City hall recently finished a three-year project that cost almost $50,000 to tame a B.E.A.S.T. of a paper problem in the basement that had accumulated over eight decades.

One of the major initiatives of the city clerk’s office starting in 2017 was to address the “woeful state” of the department’s paper management records, since the office is responsible for all corporate records and for answering access to information requests, a city council report explained.

Historically, records were consigned to storage to make way for new files for the new year, often without a systematic guide for how they could be accessed if needed. So, when municipal officials required a file from a previous year, it became a time-consuming search and was unconducive to meeting the needs of the city clerk’s office or the public.

“The project was internally referred to as ‘Unleashing the B.E.A.S.T (basement eradication and strategic transitioning),” the report continued. The scope of the work was daunting, as there were numerous boxes of files dating back to the 1940s, while the filing system of the city clerk/solicitor’s office also changed over the years.”

Project background

The department developed a plan to enhance records management, retention, and destruction when appropriate, while it had the goal to optimize the use of resources and modernize records management, thereby reducing corporate risk and demands for additional storage, the report explained.

Consideration also included how to continually update the archive records to include new materials in collections, differentiating between historical data and information that could be destroyed.

After completing its project, the city clerk’s department digitally scanned and archived 4,645 property files and 2,206 clerk files — a total of 6,851 files — into collections, the report continued. This represented 959,140 sheets of historical data digitally scanned into a municipal computer program. The city clerk’s office can now maintain the archival record system and add to the collections each year.

The project budget was $80,000; $40,814.56 was spent on wages and benefits, $2,634.63 on the shredding of materials, and $3,234 on consultant fees. The remaining $33,317 will return to the unexpended capital account and be used for future projects in other areas.  

Council discussion

“I never been in the basement, but a picture tells a thousand words,” said Coun. Heather Eby, referring to the before and after pictures in the report. “This brings city hall into the next century. It’s a nice report to get on our last night (in this council term).”

This project was important because whenever council asks for reports or needs to search the past for information for help for the present, city hall staff can access that data digitally instead of searching through reams of paper, said Coun. Crystal Froese.

“This was part of the modernizing of city council that we came forward in 2017,” she added. “But it was an enormous amount of work; very tedious, I’m sure, but probably pretty interesting. I can imagine some of the things you came across.”

Council then voted unanimously to receive and file the report.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Nov. 16.