County Offers Transparency to Residents

Organization Profile

  • Industry: County Government
  • Location: Flint, Michigan
  • Number of Employees: 11
  • Population: 407,683
  • Tyler Client Since: 2018
  • Tyler Products Used: Eagle Recorder™

Challenges

Trust and transparency are important in building a strong community; just ask folks in Flint, Michigan. In 2014, the residents of the largest city in Genesee County experienced a transition to a new drinking water source and a public health crisis emerged. The Flint River water supply began to corrode aging lead pipes around the city, and more than 100,000 residents were exposed to contaminated drinking water. A state of emergency was declared in 2016, and state and local offices worked together to provide relief to the city and others around the county. Through federal government aid, extensive testing, lawsuits, pipe replacements, and more, Flint residents were battling to receive both clean water and more information from government agencies.

In 2015, the Genesee County Register of Deeds (ROD) highlighted the need to track and verify critical information related to ongoing crisis-related projects — specifically, the status of lead service line repairs for property owners. This project would require significant funding and planning from agencies across the state. County Clerk/Register of Deeds, John Gleason, had been passionate about this concept from the beginning — especially because of the incomplete existing water records. The office fought tooth and nail to raise awareness for funding the project.

“We wanted to move forward with this aggressive digitizing project to do everything we can for the safety of the kids and the citizens of Flint,” he said. “There were anywhere from 11,000 to 15,000 incomplete water records with the city, and we needed to take some corrective action. This enduring documentation can create a property stabilization effect, so people are clear about what happened in and around their neighborhoods.”

As these aging lines were being replaced, citizens needed reassurance the county had done its due diligence to repair the affected materials. In 2017, in effort to streamline record keeping and provide information to the public, the county proposed a large scale lead pipe annotation project. The ROD would aim to record an affidavit stating repair on each affected City of Flint land record. Alicia Hamlin, clerical coordinator for Genesee County, was instrumental in developing the design and search parameters of the affidavit. This project would be no small undertaking, as Genesee County is the fifth most populated county in the state of Michigan, and this annotation project would be the first of its kind in any state. In order to get the county back on the right track in maintaining accurate, indexed records of these pipe repairs, the county office and staff would need to count on a provider with the size, strength, and reputation to get the job done with precision and efficiency.

I think Tyler is the future — look at their reputation, their size, and how they are growing. Tyler’s strengths matter to us because we want to make sure we’re with a vendor that can handle the size of our 80,000 recordings a year and still ensure we’re getting the latest technology.

Roy Webber

Chief Deputy Register

Solution

In the spring of 2018, thanks to a partnership with the state of Michigan and a significant grant agreement, Genesee County selected the Eagle™ software solution from Tyler and began the process of collaborating with the City of Flint to engage in the project. The county worked with Tyler staff as well as city and local contractors to ensure the software could appropriately track these jobs and manage workflow.

The Eagle recording software module proved critical to the success of these operations and continues to be an integral part of the office’s processes. Before Tyler, constituents and property owners had a hard time accessing information through the previous software, and the reliability of the data was a concern. Now, the office can maximize resources by offering constituents digital access to public information — reducing lines in the office, eliminating paperwork, and saving staff headaches from using multiple systems to store and track data.

Tyler also worked with the county to customize the solution by adding a notification to the search results within its county land records. A citizen can now search for a property record and know right away whether or not it has been involved in a lead pipe repair. This small change in the system proves to be a significant benefit to the county — providing transparency to the public during a challenging time and reliable historical property records for future homeowners.

The residents of the county are not the only ones benefitting from the move to store more data online. Chief Deputy Register, Roy Webber, recalls how Tyler’s cloud-based security, reporting, and overall data integrity helped safeguard the Genesee County ROD in 2019. “The county experienced a ransomware attack in April of 2019, less than a year after we went live with Eagle,” he said. “We were one of the only departments in the county that was protected in terms of records integrity because we were in the cloud.”

The office retained valuable records information, along with audit trails and reports tracking progress throughout the remediation project. Due to the digital nature of the data, staff can now also share information across offices — making general bookkeeping and transmittals to the treasurer’s and controller’s offices much easier. The customizable workflows, part of the Eagle recorder module, allow the office to manage who can interact with a document at what time and at what point in the workflow. This ability to oversee entire processes helps management to monitor for any mistakes, reduce or eliminate errors, and improve training and employee development along the way. Everyone on the staff collaborates and is able to maximize productivity instead of having to navigate the intersection of various teams’ tasks.

The transition to Eagle came at the perfect time for the office — it provided significant assistance to staff and internal support teams in the county, addressed the critical information needs of a community during the water crisis and pipe remediations, and solidified the county’s operations for years to come.

Results

With commitments and funding in place, the county office has been able to navigate the process of annotating these records with precision, thanks to help from dedicated internal staff, efforts from local contractors and the city, and powerful Tyler solutions. As of February of 2020, the county has been involved in the excavations of more than 25,000 water service lines, resulting in the verification of more than 15,500 copper lines and the replacement of more than 9,500 lead lines. As recently as May 13, 2020, the contract between Genesee County and the City of Flint resulted in the first 5,000 notarized affidavits for the lead pipe annotation project.

Essential record keeping is critical to supporting the lives of the citizens of Flint, as well as those in communities around the county and state. The ROD offers this project as a national example of the benefits of such collaboration. As Genesee County continues to provide the public with transparency, the staff remain committed to instituting innovative projects for taxpayers and work diligently to restore trust and peace of mind to residents.

Case Study Highlights

  • The county has been involved in the excavations of more than 25,000 water service lines.
  • Cloud-based security lets the office safeguard data with integrity.
  • Citizens are more engaged and informed with easy access to records information.

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