By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Beginning April 1, online access to Lafayette County records for land transactions, divorces, wills and other matters of Chancery Court will be free.
Searchers have been able to do the work online for the past several months for a $30-per-month fee, which went toward the $400-per-month hosting fee that Delta Computer Systems charges to host the information, which performs a similar service for 30 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.
“I was hoping there were enough (subscribers) to pay for the service,” said Chancery Clerk Sherry Wall. “Most of them were happy to pay for it.”
According to her interpretation, such a fee was akin to the 25-cents-per-page charge for self-generated copies and the 50-cents per-page fee if staff members make copies for a customer – both of which are allowed under state law to reimburse direct costs of equipment, supplies and labor.
Tuesday the Board of Supervisors voted to authorize Wall to end the online fees and pay the cost of hosting the service directly from her office’s budget.
The issue arose after someone objected to paying for access to public records.
“Somebody complained to the (Mississippi) Ethics Commission,” Wall said. “I wasn’t charging for access. That was still free here at the courthouse; I was charging for the convenience of not having to leave your house or office to search the records.”
Wall acknowledged to supervisors that the day might have come when the subscription fees would exceed hosting costs. She said that paying the cost directly from her office budget would be preferable, in that case, to having to figure and pay a pro-rata refund to users.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.