, Derry, New Hampshire

June 27, 2013

Derry's aging town records in need of some TLC

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — Some of the town’s most valuable and aging records need some tender loving care. That includes vital statistics dating back to the 1960s up through 1980.

Town Clerk Denise Neale is now on a mission to make sure that information is kept safe and secure, asking for $65,000 to pay for preservation costs for historical and vital records as required by town law.

People come in often, she said, asking to see records of births, deaths, marriages, and other vital statistics. Often the records are in sad shape due to their age.

Last week, town councilors unanimously approved the money to help keep the town’s documents safe.

Neale said the town’s vital statistics from several years are in disrepair or have not been converted to microfiche for preservation as a permanent record.

“With increasing prices, the annual budget for care and preservation of records is inadequate for the (town clerk) to repair or preserve past records that are at risk for further deterioration,” she said, “due to inadequate preservation methods used in the 1960s and 1970s time period.”

Some town records were previously preserved using a state records preservation grant, but that money is not an option now, she said.

“This is one of the things I basically take care of,” Neale said. “Some of the books taken down off the shelf are bound the old-fashioned way; (the records) are falling out.”

Neale said through the town’s annual budget process, the town clerk’s office has preserved 23 books over the past four fiscal years.

The costs are rising to keep records preserved. The town documents have been reviewed and inventoried and uses a special vendor to analyze the documents and make recommendations. This time it’s recommended to remove acid from the paper, and to microfilm and rebind documents in Mylar-protected pages.

The town will put the project out to other firms in the area who specialize in this type of town document preservation.

The final cost for the project is unknown, Neale said in her report, but any money left over from the process will be sent back to the town’s general fund balance.

Councilor Brad Benson questioned why the town record expenditure is not a part of the annual town budget process.

“I’m just a little surprised,” he said.

Town Administrator John Anderson said he would take the fall for not presenting this during the budget process.

Councilor Mark Osborne said spending the money was important as the town is required by law to care for its records.

“It’s one of the basic town functions,” he said.