published Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Hamilton County register of deeds' $2 fee will benefit county

A recent decision to allow Hamilton County Register of Deeds Pam Hurst to charge a $2 fee for e-filing documents in her office could generate about $23,000 for the county -- and save residents $3 per filing.

Hamilton County commissioners voted last week to adopt revisions to Tennessee law that would allow Hurst to collect the fee, and county information technology staff are working to build a filing website.

Contrary to the title, Hurst's office records more than 160 types of documents including deeds, powers of attorney, plots, military discharges and others.

Hurst said Monday her office has been accepting electronically filed documents since 2006 through a vendor called Simplifile. That company has been charging customers $5 per file, and the county hasn't seen a dime of it.

Once the county IT department finishes writing the necessary software, Hurst can start collecting the money. The $2 fee will be used to pay IT for the work, then likely find its way into the county general fund, she said. Hurst said Monday it will likely be sent back to the county in excess fees. She turned in $1.3 million in fees in the last budget year, she said.

Also last year, the register's office accepted more than 11,000 e-filed documents from various vendors and title companies, according to register office records. On its busiest days, the office received about 120 documents, she said.

County IT staff did not immediately respond Monday to an email with questions about how long the work will take.

Along with being a new revenue stream, the in-house collection site will improve efficiency, Hurst said.

The contracted vendor now collects all the deed information from filers, she said.

"We have a 20 percent rejection rate because people still have missing information in their filings," Hurst said.

Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the new fee will be a boon to Hurst's office and the county. He said he wasn't surprised it cleared the commission unanimously.

"That will be a plus for her to be able to collect the $2. That's a reasonable request to make, and I think it's great," Henry said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at 423-757-6481 or lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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