Kathy Jenisch, Records Manager for Kentucky Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1), had quite a messy document management problem to clean up.

Her organization, the second-largest public sewer utility in Kentucky, had been fined $40,000 for failing to produce just eight pieces of emailand that didn’t include the operational expense of paying several employees to spend six hours a day for three weeks searching for documents they couldn’t find.

Then she discovered that the organization’s offsite storage facility was allowing records to get moldy or rodent-infested — leading to the destruction of almost six tons of documents.

On top of that, she had to comply with a new state government transparency law that required her to create a website that displayed records about the organization’s financial expenditures as well as its annual budget and annual audit.  The records needed to be searchable, updated monthly, and maintained on the web site for at least three years.

The solution to all these problems was obvious. Digitize SD1’s records.

That’s not to say it was a simple process. SD1 did it on a project by project basis.

One such project involved 27 tubs of documents. Jenisch spent $20,000 hiring a digitizing service to prepare and scan the documents. The job was completed in five weeks, as opposed to the years the department estimated it would have taken to do on its own, she says.

Having records digitized paid off when SD1 had to respond to requests for documents associated with a state audit. Instead of pulling HR file folders from archive and hand searching for the documents, the search took only a matter of minutes. SD1 was also able to summon up historical documents dating back to the creation of the organization, board meeting minutes, policies and procedures, travel expenses, board and staff contact information, and budgets. SD1 could search and copy everything to a CD in about an hour. Without digitized documents, it would have taken days to comply with the audit request. SD1 passed its state audit with compliments to its recordkeeping, and aced its local annual financial audit as well.

Jenisch has advice for other organizations contemplating a similar move. “Just start somewhere,” she says. “Pick a project and get started.  You can’t mess it up, it can always be changed or revised.”

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