The Local Record
A Quarterly Newsletter of the
State and Local Records Management Division
- Documenting Records Destruction
- Retention Schedules Revised
- Establishment of Water Districts
- LGRC Appointments
- Geographic Information Systems
- We Get Questions
- New Imaging Services Available
A city has filed a complete set of records control schedules for its various departments with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The schedules have been approved.
A hospital district has declared adoption of appropriate commission schedules for use in its records management program.
Under the Local Government Records Act, both of these governments, and any others that have filed schedules or declared adoption of commission schedules, are no longer under obligation to file Requests for Authority to Destroy Unscheduled Records (SLR 501). Governments may now destroy records whose retention periods have expired without obtaining our permission. The only exception is if a government should discover and wish to dispose of records that do not appear on its schedule.
When HB1285 (the Local Government Records Act of 1989) was introduced in the 71st Legislature, it contained a provision that records management officers (RMOs) had to keep accurate lists of records destroyed, both before and after the filing of records control schedules. At some point during committee or floor debate, the requirement was removed. Section 203.046, Local Government Code, now requires that RMOs have to keep records of destruction only if the governing body so directs. The Local Government Records Act was amended and improved at several points during its passage, but the removal of the destruction documentation requirement was a step backward.
At the urging of staff of the State and Local Government Records Management Division, most local governments have adopted orders or resolutions that incorporate a requirement that the RMO maintain documentation on records destruction. We take every opportunity in training or consulting with local government staff to emphasize the importance of keeping records of the disposal of records, including accurate descriptions of the records and when they were destroyed.
Why is such documentation crucial to a records management program? The management of records and information confers many benefits on any organization, including local governments.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission recently adopted revisions to three local government records retention schedules. The commission approved amendments to Local Schedule CC (Records of County Clerks), Local Schedule DC (Records of District Clerks), and Local Schedule PS (Records of Public Safety Agencies). Each schedule moves now to a second edition.
The revisions to the schedules were made as a result of amendments to state or federal laws or regulations or as the result of the study by staff of comments and suggestions received from users of the schedules. The amended schedules were approved by the Local Governments Records Committee, prior to their adoption by the commission, as required by Section 441.158, Government Code.
Staff of the State and Local Government Records Management Division (SLRM) of the commission wish to express their thanks to those local government records management officers and elected county officials who contributed to the revision of the schedules.
The amended schedules took effect October 20 and were distributed to affected local governments and elected county officers. If you need and did not receive an amended schedule, please call 512-452-9242, ask for the Publications Assistant, and request the schedule...or download it from our web site at http://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/recordspubs/index.html.
In the coming months, SLRM staff will be examining and preparing amendments to three other commission schedules—Local Schedule SD (Records of Public School Districts), Local Schedule JC (Records of Junior Colleges), and Local Schedule HR (Records of Public Health Authorities). Anyone who wishes to offer suggested amendments to these schedules are encouraged to send their comments to Michael Heskett at State and Local Records Management.
A Progress Report
We encourage local government records management officers or records personnel to submit articles or news items for possible inclusion in The Local Record. We recently received the following progress report on a local government's records management program.
The implementation, development, and ultimately the success of a records management program depends not only on management's endorsement but also on the continued support it receives.
The City of Carrollton has made that commitment. Gary Jackson, Carrollton city manager, the city council, and management have been instrumental in the implementation of a "Management Plan," which encourages customer service improvements, communications, and teamwork.
Jackson and Pam Schmidt, city secretary, joined the Records Management Committee at their June 12th kickoff luncheon. As records management officer, Schmidt has been instrumental in expanding the program and a great asset in its development. Jackson expressed management's and the city council's support, shared with them the city's vision, and how records management fits in with the "Management Plan."
"For us to serve our customers, both internal and external, we must have open, organized, and accessible records," Jackson states. "I fully endorse development of a clear and concise manual to guide our efforts in achieving this goal."
How does dealing with record fit into that philosophy? The City of Carrollton's Records Management Committee is made up of more than 30 departmental liaisons, the records coordinator, and the city secretary. Each department has a manual that covers various state, city, and departmental records requirements. The committee's first major task was to develop a Records Management Policy and Procedure Manual.
After considerable thought, planning, and feedback, it was found that breaking this large group into subcommittees would make it easier, speed up the process, and help generate the necessary enthusiasm to get the job done. What we all want and desire is to produce a document that everyone can be proud of, be guided by, and adheres to state regulations.
Committee members not only have the opportunity to provide their expertise, but be a part of the team to make it happen. We now have four subcommittees, each made up of 6-7 individuals, researching and working on topics ranging from storage requirements to disaster relief procedures. All groups made their presentations to the entire committee on September 16, 1997. The recommendations were submitted in final form to the entire committee for consideration September 25.
As we work toward a common goal of good records management, we have to remember that transition is not always easy. It has taken and will continue to take commitment, lots of communication, and most of all, teamwork to make it successful.
Certain water districts which we represent have been created by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (or its predecessor, the Texas Water Commission) but have not yet held a confirmation election, as required by the Texas Water Code. Accordingly, it has been our position that these districts have not yet been "established" and that these districts have one year from the date of the canvassing of the results of the confirmation election to comply with Section 203.047, Local Government Code. We would appreciate your advice as to whether you agree with our position.
In effect, Section 203.047, Local Government Code, requires that a local government established after September 1, 1989, shall appoint a records management officer; adopt a records management program by ordinance, order, or resolution; and either file records control schedules, adopt commission schedules, or declare that all records will be retained permanently within one year after the date of its establishment.
Since the first two of these duties requires action by the governing body, it seems to us that "establishment" of a water district dates from the canvassing of the results of the election of the permanent governing body, which includes confirmation by the electorate that the district will be established.
We think there is a difference between "creation" and "establishment." The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission or the Legislature creates districts by order or statute, subject to the approval of the electorate. If the voters approve and elect a permanent board of directors, then the district begins to operate as a local government.
The classic and most historical example we can offer concerns counties. Many Texas counties, especially those in west Texas, were "established"—by the election of their first commissioners courts and other elected county officers—years after their creation by the Legislature. Ector County, for example, was not established until 20 years after its creation.
Dr. Robert S. Martin, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, announced in January his appointments to the Local Government Records Committee for terms beginning February 1, 1997 and ending January 31, 1999.
All but two of the committee, Shirley Maples and Jerry Marza, are reappointed from the previous committee. By law, the Local Government Records Committee must approve administrative rules affecting local government records before the Texas State Library and Archives Commission can adopt them. In addition to the ten members listed, the Attorney General and the State Comptroller of Public Accounts or their designees also serve on the committee. We encourage you to contact the members of the committee to express your suggestions or concerns relating to the management of local government records.
Members of the committee are:
Rebecca L. Brewster
Town of Van Horn
P. O. Box 517
Van Horn, TX 79855
Nueces County Appraisal District
201 North Chaparral
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
The Honorable Hector Enriquez, Jr.
El Paso County
500 E. San Antonio
El Paso, TX 79901
Lipscomb County Appraisal District
P. O. Box 128
Darrouzett, TX 79024-0128
Records Management Officer
P.O. Box 340
Blanco, TX 78606-0340
Barry J. Schneider
Fort Worth ISD
100 N. University
Fort Worth, TX 76107-3010
Franklin County Water District
PO Box 559
Mt. Vernon, TX 75457-0059
General Manager Zavala-Dimmit Counties
Water Improvement District #1
PO Drawer 729
Crystal City, TX 78839-0729
Records Management Officer
Galveston, TX 77550
City of Luling
PO Box 630
Luling, TX 78648-0630
Derived with permission from the STATEMENT newsletter, January 1997 issue, published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
A geographic information system (GIS) is a powerful computer tool that coordinates the location of and information about structures, things and people.
Uses of GIS data in the public sector involve property appraisal, 911 service, transportation routes and emergency plans. Uses in the private sector include business planning, advertising and marketing. Public information officers are asking what to charge for requests of electronic GIS data developed at taxpayers' expense.
House Bill 1718, passed by the Texas Legislature in 1995, set out a temporary section to authorize cities to determine charges for copies of their GIS data. The section also directed the General Services Commission (GSC) to conduct a study with representatives from the Geographic Information Systems Planning Council, county and city officials and other interested parties.
GSC assembled a committee with representatives from state agencies, cities, the state legislature, associations and private companies. The committee held seven meetings and found its members had varied opinions on how to treat GIS data and what charges to use to recover costs.
The committee was split on two main schools of thought, and the final report included both viewpoints. One viewpoint was that GIS data is like any other public information and should remain in the public domain without any restrictions.
These committee members believed that the Legislature should not treat requesters of GIS data differently based on their intended use of the data and should allow for reasonable charges currently developed by GSC.
The second viewpoint was that GIS data was different because of the higher cost of acquiring and maintaining the systems. These committee members wanted the Legislature to make permanent the temporary section of the Public Information Act, which authorizes cities to set charges at their discretion for copies of GIS data.
GSC decided to accept the proposals of the first viewpoint in its report.
In its September 30 report to the Legislature, GSC outlined the two public policy perspectives it had found. GSC acknowledged that some local public officials have concerns about maintaining the public nature of GIs data and in recovering costs for maintaining local systems.
GSC held that the current provisions of the Public Information Act, Chapter 552, Government Code, are adequate to cover all costs associated with providing GIS data to requesters GSC found that requesting GIS data is essentially no different from requesting any other public information.
In its report, GSC recommended that the Texas Legislature:
- continue the current provisions of the Public Information Act and GSC rules;
- allow the current temporary exception for GIS data to expire;
- disallow any special GIS exemption in the Local Government Code for cities;
- encourage opportunities to improve government through data sharing; and
- consider supporting alternative funding to develop GIS
The GSC report suggested several items for the Legislature to consider should it choose to handle GIs data differently from other public information.
GSC suggested that the Texas Legislature consider the following items should it decide to allow an exemption to cities for GIS data.
- Limit the exemption to cities only and not other forms of government. Cities believed other cooperative agreements among local governments should apply.
- Disallow calling GIS data "infrastructure," a name that could apply to other types of public information.
- Keep GIS data as part of the Public Information Act to discourage abuse. Encourage developing pricing standards for consistency among cities. Cities pointed out that GIS systems vary from city to city, making uniform pricing difficult.
- Encourage cost free and license free sharing of GIS data between public entities to help governments share rather than duplicate each other's work.
- Limit types of information allowed to be marketed for exemption as GIS data.
- Provide strict limitations on how and to whom cities charge for GIS data to ensure access to support public purposes.
- Encourage developing public-private partnerships so that cities don't overly restrict the ability to access GIS information.
- Ensure that cities use collected fees for GIS maintenance and updating and not for general revenue or other purposes.
Q. We are a local government and have been microfilming our records for many years. We have been storing the originals in bank vaults and other types of storage, including underground storage facilities. Should we be concerned about our film?
Yes. Film stored in conditions not suited for film may suffer from a number of problems. Bank vaults, while protecting bank assets from robbers, offer little protection for film in terms of controlled temperature and humidity.
Underground storage facilities must be able to keep the relative humidity level between established guidelines. Texas standards require that film with a retention of more than 10 years be kept in a storage room or vault, whose "temperature must not exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a constant relative humidity of 35% must be maintained with a maximum variance of plus/minus 5% relative humidity in a 24-hour period."
Microscopic blemishes, also known as redox, can harm the film. Redox is caused by local oxidation of image silver, resulting in the formation of minute deposits of reddish spots on the film. Older acetate based film may suffer from the "vinegar syndrome." This condition is caused by excessive moisture in the storage area of film that causes the film to break down and release acetic acid. The deteriorating film actually smells like vinegar. Typically, if it has not deteriorated completely, the film can be recopied to silver based duplicate film, then stored in the proper environment.
Film inspection is also required by Texas microfilm standards. The inspection of stored microfilm "must be conducted every two years, except if the microfilm has been stored under temperature and/or humidity conditions other than those specified in these sections, it must be inspected yearly." Please refer to the microfilming standards for the sampling procedures.
Q. People have been telling me recently that microfilm is obsolete. That it is old fashioned and out of date. They tell me that if I want to archive my records I should use a document imaging system because the optical disks will last a long time. I'm beginning to feel some pressure to purchase an imaging system. What do you think?
The uses for microfilm have indeed changed recently. Up until the last 10 years or so, film was used to manage active records as well as to preserve records. Today, the focus has changed somewhat.
With the advent of document imaging systems, active document management is better suited to the newer technology. Document imaging systems offer benefits such as rapid retrieval, mass storage, concurrent access, and ease of use. Manufacturers of optical disks may guarantee their optical media for 50 or even 100 years. The problem is, that even though the disks may physically last 100 years, the supporting technology may not. In other words, the software and hardware needed to read today's optical disk may not be capable of doing so many years from now. That is why we require by administrative rules that governments develop a "migration strategy for upgrading equipment as technology evolves."
Microfilm, on the other hand, has become the medium of choice for preserving long-term records. The life expectancy of microfilm can be up to 500 years if processed and stored correctly. Not only is it a stable and proven media, it is eye-readable. Film requires only the most simple technology (a light source and a lens) to be read.
Your government's requirements for recordkeeping will dictate the methods you choose. If you have a need for fast retrieval of active records, then perhaps a document imaging system would be beneficial. If, on the other hand, you need to preserve these records for long periods with little or no activity, then microfilm would be more appropriate.
State and Local Records Management announces new services from its Imaging Services unit. SLRM can now cost-effectively digitally archive your imaging system on analog media.
By creating microfilm images from digital image files, governments can provide long-term retention and access to their records. Archival film will remain both machine and eye-readable into the foreseeable future, while offering protection from technological obsolescence. For information, please call 512-454-2705, ext. 126.