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Kitsap County Auditor * 619 Division St
Port Orchard WA 98366-4687
360-337-7129 * Fax: 360-337-4645
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitsap County Auditor Walt Washington (D)

 

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In this issue of Beyond the Books we take an in-depth look at our Recording Division. As the safe keeper of the county’s public records, our job is to ensure these documents are preserved in perpetuity and accessible to all members of our community.

The earliest recorded documents date back to 1857 when this area was known as Slaughter County. In those days, the county seat was located in Port Madison, near Suquamish. Early settlers to this area didn’t have access to the advanced digital systems used to record and preserve documents today. Instead, public records were hand written in oversized leather-bound books, using elegant cursive. Within these books were marriage certificates, birth and death records, family histories, real estate transactions, and meeting minutes dating back to the formation of our county government.

Many of these volumes exist today and are stored in a little known area of the Recording Division called The Vault. The documents stored in The Vault are a far cry from our modern-day recording system where access to information is instantaneous.

Today, the majority of recorded documents are related to real estate transactions such as mortgages, deeds of trust, easements, and road maintenance agreements. We also record marriage licenses, affidavits and military discharge papers.

But why is it so important to record real estate transactions? The importance of these public records was apparent following Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of Louisiana residents saw their homes demolished with not a stick of furniture or a family picture to indicate that a home stood on a particular parcel of land. In a situation like this, public records filed in the county recording office may be the only proof of ownership.

Recording documents – how it’s done
Documents are received by Recording Division Manager Nancy Lawrence and staff electronically, via courier, in the mail or in person.

The majority of our recorded documents are produced by five title companies operating in Kitsap County. A family run title courier service owned by Don and Kristen Schwartz deliver real estate documents to our office three times a day. These documents are recorded on the same day they are delivered to us. At the end of the day, the Schwartz’s and their team return these documents to the title companies.

Recording Division staff review these documents to ensure they meet state formatting requirements. Once the documents have been reviewed, associated recording fees are collected. A portion of the fees collected support the Ending Homelessness program in Kitsap, document preservation, and state archive programs.

Next, documents are labeled with the name of the submitter, Auditor File Number, document type, fee, date and time, page number, and county of record. The information on these labels is an integral part of our indexing system that enables the public to search and locate documents as soon as they are recorded.

After documents are labeled, they are scanned into the recording system and entered into our database. At this point, documents are immediately retrievable electronically by Auditor File Number and document type. 

Documents are then indexed into fields mandated by state law that are useful when conducting a document search. These fields include grantor, grantee, property description, tax parcel number, and excise number. 

The final step in the recording process is verification or quality assurance. Recording staff review indexed fields to ensure there are no data entry mistakes. Once the document has been verified, it is searchable by all of the additional fields.

Marriage Licenses
Summer is the busy season for issuing marriage licenses. Couples may apply for a marriage license in-person or by mail. Both parties must sign the application in front of a deputy auditor or a notary public if the application is submitted by mail. We are exploring the potential of online marriage licensing which will require a change in State law. 

There is a three-day waiting period where applicants may not get married. After the waiting period, the license is valid for 60 days. A marriage license fee is collected and a portion goes to help fund family support services, family court, child abuse prevention programs and displaced homemakers. After the ceremony, the officiant returns the signed marriage certificate to us.

Public Search Area
The Recording Division maintains an area where individuals may search public documents dating back to 1857 that are preserved on microfiche, microfilm and in our database.

Business Licenses
We also issues business licenses to antique dealers, exotic dancers, and legal process servers.

Process Improvements
We have come a long way from our early days as Slaughter County. One of our priorities is to continually streamline and automate the services we provide, including:  

  • eRecording: Implemented in 2009, eRecording allows the public to record documents electronically, eliminating the need to manually scan, label and index certain information on documents. Today, more than 20 percent of all recorded documents are filed using eRecording.

  • Internal eRecording: We are implementing a system that will allow internal Kitsap County departments to record documents electronically.

  • Combined Indexing System: This newly launched system eliminates the need to search for documents using industry terms such as grantor and grantee.

  • Virtual Vault: We are in the final testing phases of a system that digitizes all documents recorded on microfiche and microfilm from 1977 to 1986.

While we hope to have a system in place in the future that will allow couples to file their marriage licenses electronically, we certainly enjoy seeing their happy faces when they come in to our office!

Get to know the Recording Division. Staff pictures, videos and more are available here: www.facebook.com/KitsapCountyAuditor.