How a County Saves $5.5 Million by Going Digital

4 min read
  • Government
  • Information Technology
  • Document & Records Management

Contributed by: Maureen Reynolds, Deputy County Clerk, Tompkins County, NY

Tompkins County originally purchased a Laserfiche enterprise content management system to track boxes in the old Records Center. “Once we saw what Laserfiche could do, we decided to scan all 9,000 boxes in the records center, destroy the paper, and eventually tear down the building – saving $5.5 million in the process.”

“We had just finished a large enterprise document management system for the County Clerk’s office (193 years of land and court records were incorporated in 9 years) and felt we had the on-staff knowledge, expertise, IT support, IT infrastructure and vendor partnerships to turn this program around – but we needed a enterprise system, so we started looking for one,” says Maureen Reynolds, Deputy County Clerk of Tompkins County, NY. “My CIO had seen a Laserfiche demo when interviewing vendors for our County Legislature’s meeting minute software. He thought it would work well for our countywide records needs.”

Records Center ROI

The County was in the planning stages of building a new building to house the records at a cost of $2.8 million, or $6 million for renovation of the current space. An analysis showed that at a cost of about $400,000 – $500,000 for scanning, software upgrades and IT infrastructure updates, and the use of an existing storage space in another county-owned building for archival records that could not be shredded, Laserfiche would save Tompkins County between $2.3 million and $5.5 million dollars.

The County saw a return on investment almost immediately. The costs saved on just the Records Center project were:

  • Building and renovating costs of between $2.3 million and $5.5 million.
  • Utility costs for the inefficient building.
  • Personnel time spent working instead of searching for records.
  • Office space was reclaimed by workers instead of filing cabinets.
  • IT staff were able to get rid of multiple little databases and use Laserfiche and the SDK to generate reports.
  • Paper costs were reduced by e-mailing or viewing documents instead of copying or printing.

Pilot Expansion

After the Records Center project, the County then deployed pilot projects in 16 additional departments:

  • Legislature – annual book of proceedings (1882 to 2007);
  • County Administration – contracts, insurance certificates, insurance policies and budgets;
  • DA – case files at the Records Center;
  • Highway and Facilities – all maps and plans;
  • GIS – historic tax maps (1966 to present);
  • Assessment – tax rolls;
  • Finance – payroll records;
  • Health Dept – birth & death certificates and environmental health maps;
  • Purchasing – bids, capital projects and maps;
  • Personnel – civil service history and payroll cards;
  • County Clerk – criminal files;
  • Records Dept – boxes at the records Center;
  • Mental Health – closed client inactive case histories;
  • Airport – maps, plans and office files;
  • Sheriff – closed civil records and old jail records;
  • Office for the Aging – departmental records.

“The majority of these records pilot projects were not records included in the Inactive Records Center boxes,” Reynolds says. “These were serious records management problems that we found in individual departments that needed immediate attention.”


Human Resources leveraged Workflow to automatically email day forward payroll created in existing Lawson ERP financial services software to department heads while simultaneously storing the documents in a Laserfiche repository. Laserfiche rapidly reduced paper purchases from 30 boxes a year to eight and eliminated the biweekly printing of over 300 pages.

“These documents used to be printed and could be as large as 300 + pages every two weeks, sometimes in duplicate/triplicate. This saves time, money and trees!” Reynolds says.

Criminal Records

Accessing high-resolution PDFs of criminal records on Laserfiche WebLink, a self-serve online document portal configured for public and secure internal search and retrieval, saved the County Clerk’s Office from frequent trips to the old Records building, which is stored in an old building about a block away. Personnel now instantly retrieve criminal records on WebLink during court proceedings, so a judge can sit on the bench and view records on his or her laptop.

Sheriff’s Department

The sheriff’s department had a room full of arrest reports that are now scanned into Laserfiche. Before Laserfiche, staff had to find the individual in an index/card system, get the arrest report number and then go pull the file. In Laserfiche, the files are all stored by individual name, making the process much faster.

“They were able to put desks and other necessary equipment in the room where the reports were being stored,” Reynolds says. “We are also going to begin scanning records they have stored in a two bay garage, which since it was outside, had no climate control and very challenging access.”

Unexpected Benefits

According to Reynolds, Laserfiche offered some unexpected benefits:

  • Records Management Edition, Quick Fields, Workflow, Web Access, WebLink, and Audit Trail allowed us to present a better end product to our internal and external customers.
  • OCR and zone OCR provides a major labor cost savings.
  • By scanning highway maps, site workers could view maps that were in storage – they didn’t have to drive back to the storeroom, search for the map, and then wonder if they had found the newest version.
  • Payroll staff no longer had to search through binders for hours in an off-site storage building for retirement information – it was on their desktop.
  • It took us two days to scan 128 years of legislative books of proceedings. Now they are searchable by computer instead of by hand.
  • Our next step is to open a public Web portal so that the public can search public records from their home computers.

“We started using Laserfiche as a simple tool for tracking boxes, then expanded it to store the images of all 9,000 boxes, implemented records management pilot projects within individual county departments, and have standardized all software implementation programs in the future so that they will be able to interface with Laserfiche,” she adds.

“The ROI we’ve realized by implementing Laserfiche has been critical in this time of ‘doing more with less.’ Laserfiche has allowed us to scrap a multi-million dollar building project. On top of that, it enables our employees to use their time more efficiently.”

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