Council Takes Steps to Preserve Town’s Vital Records

The Town Council has approved a transfer of funds from one department to the next, in order for Derry’s vital records to be preserved for this century and those to come. The Council voted at its June 18 meeting to approve the transfer of $65,000 from an unused line for union negotiations, to be used by Town Clerk Denise Neale’s department to preserve records dating back to the early 1960s.

Neale and Controller Janice Mobsby, members of the Records Retention Committee, discussed the issue before the Council and television audience. Preserving town records falls under her supervision, Neale told the Council. Some of the older records of births, deaths and marriages are “held by a thread,” kept together with a three-hole punch and a cover. Some are falling out or falling apart, she said.

In previous years she applied for and received a grant to preserve records, including de-acidification, she said. But the grants are no longer available, and there is a steady demand for access to these records, she said. Mobsby said while Neale has done work under the grants, many of the records are still in disrepair. Neale’s budget for the Town Clerk’s office is $128,000, and does not stretch to cover records preservation.

The cost to “bring up” the older records is about $65,000, Mobsby said. She said Neale has obtained competitive bids on the procedure. Mobsby said records from 1962 to 1980 need to be preserved. They are not up to industry standards, she said, adding that it’s possible shortcuts were used in their original compilation.

Neale said she has already addressed records preceding 1962. To a question by Councilor Mark Osborne about a “gap” in the list of years, she said she has also already addressed 1963 to 1968, because they were in the worst state of disrepair.

After 1987, Mobsby said, “vital records” became the purview of the state. The $65,000 would come out of $285,000 budgeted this year – and not used – for union settlements, Mobsby said. Councilor Brad Benson suggested changing the dollar figure to “up to $65,000,” but Mobsby pointed out that the state Department of Revenue Administration frowns on that kind of language. “If the RFP (Request for Proposals) comes in less, it would just go to the unexpended fund balance,” she said of the excess.

Osborne reminded the Council that according to RSA 41:59, the town is required by law to preserve its vital records. “It is one of the basic town functions,” he said.
The Council voted 7-0 to approve the transfer of funds.