Montcalm County approves $2,000 for register of deeds to attend conference


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:03 pm on Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lori Wilson

STANTON — Montcalm County’s Finance & Personnel Committee on Monday approved up to $2,000 so Register of Deeds Lori Wilson can attend a conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wilson will attend the Property Records Industry Association conference Aug. 28-31. She said the conference will help her learn about the rapidly changing digital records world, including geographic information systems (GIS), e-recordings, e-notarization and optical character recondition auto indexing.

The $2,000 in travel expenses will come from the county’s technology fund budget.

Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview, who is chairman of the full Board of Commissioners and sits in on committee meetings, was concerned about the expense amid the county’s troubled financial situation. He noted commissioners recently denied a request from Montcalm County Building Department Director Scott Minard to hire a full-time code enforcement officer, even though the Building Department has $100,000 in retained earnings in its budget.

“I think you’ve been very helpful with the money crunch and helping us out. I appreciate that,” Carr told Wilson. “The problem I have with this is, I know it’s out of the tech fund, but not every office has a tech fund to ask for these things. When we go through what were going through with people losing their jobs and having to do the jobs of others, it’s hard to justify spending $2,000 to send somebody to Tennessee. Is this something that’s absolutely critical for your office?”

“I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t think it was,” Wilson answered. “The technology is moving so fast … with (IT Director) Eric (McLaughlin) being our only IT person, there’s nowhere I can go to get the information to protect the citizens of Montcalm County. Everything is digital. I am the keeper of the records.”

Wilson mentioned an Associated Press news story from last December detailing a ransomware attack on Madison County’s government in Indiana. The county had to pay nearly $200,000 to purchase off-site data storage, firewall protection and a backup court system, in addition to a $21,000 ransom paid to obtain encryption keys and to take back control of county computers from the hacker. Nearly 600 county computers and 75 servers were affected and the hacking job took weeks to fix.

The Finance & Personnel Committee — including Chairman Ron Baker of Howard City, Vice Chairman John Johansen of Montcalm Township and commissioners Ron Retzloff of Crystal and Betty Kellenberger of Carson City — unanimously approved Wilson’s request. The motion does not have to go before the full board.

Carr did not have a vote in the matter as he only sits in on committee meetings.

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