DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County Registry of Deeds office currently has Internet access to documents dating back to 1970 for the convenience of real estate agents and the general public. But if you want older records online, you’re out of luck. They’re available for viewing, but only in bound copies at the office.
That’s about to change, according to Registrar Linda Smith. By the end of the summer or early fall, all records back to the birth of Piscataquis County in 1838 will be available online. “You’ll be able to search for the records by name and be able to view a scanned copy of the page online,” Smith told the County Commissioners at last week’s meeting. “So if you’re in California, you can search for your records in Piscataquis County.”
The expanded online access is one of several improvements Smith reported at the meeting. While most of them won’t cost the county anything, some fees for the general public are going up.
The Maine Legislature authorized a $6 increase in the fee charged for the first page of a deed, hiking the cost from $13 to $19. The cost of each additional page ($2) stayed the same. Smith said that Maine “was ridiculously low compared to other states. An extra $6 you’ll probably spend once or twice in your lifetime won’t break you. So this was overdue.”
Smith noted that the bill, LD 559, was one of 83 vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage, but one of only five overturned by the Legislature. In his veto message, LePage wrote, “I firmly believe that county government, like the federal, state and local governments, can tighten its belt.”
But the registry of deeds said that it isn’t a tax “but a user fee that directly benefits the county.”
The commissioners gave Smith permission to renew her office’s contract with Xerox Corporation, the online records management firm. Smith described the company as “the best of the best. They’ve offered us the same price for the next five years as we’ve been paying for the last 15 years.”
Commissioner Eric Ward noted that while the county prefers sending contracts out to bid, there are exceptions.
“We’ve done it with snowplowing before,” Ward said. The other two commissioners concurred, and passed a motion to have Smith renew the agreement with Xerox.