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Expanded access to land records approved in Sharon

SHARON — The Sharon selectmen voted unanimously at their meeting on Tuesday, July 14, to approve funding for a project to make additional years of land records available online. 

The decision, which will in particular benefit title searchers, cleared the way for the Board of Finance to vote on the expense as part of the 2020-21 town budget.

To be imaged and indexed are Volumes 71 to 91, at an estimated cost of $18,000. Presently, online records can be searched back to 1975.

The project (to be accomplished by Info Quick Solutions of Liverpool, N.Y.) would extend access to records back to the 1950s. 

Info Quick Solutions is familiar with the town’s land records systems; the company already provides daily verification of land records.

The request for expanded access was first made by lifelong town resident William Manasse, an attorney with Manasse, Slaiby and Leard, with offices in Kent and Torrington. 

As is the case with many area attorneys, Manasse’s practice often involves title searches for real estate transactions, he told the selectmen.  

He had first approached Town Clerk Linda Amerighi with his request. Amerighi brought it to the attention of the selectmen at their meeting of June 23, when it was determined that Manasse would be invited to the July meeting.

Saying at the June meeting that she had given the request a “considerable amount of thought,” Amerighi was seeking the town’s guidance in the matter. At that time she was ambivalent, due to the expense, and she reported that she had been consistently able to keep up with research requests on a same-day basis. Further, she noted that she had been “chipping away” at getting records online a few volumes at a time, as grant funding became available.

At the June meeting, the selectmen underscored the importance of making land records availabile online, while praising Amerighi’s work in fulfilling research requests efficiently — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there is limited public access to town offices.

Between the June meeting and the July meeting, Amerighi reported that she had realized the real impact that processing applications for absentee ballots was having on her office. The ballots are now being processed for primary voting on Aug. 11. She said the processing of the applications is extraordinarily detailed and time-consuming.  

Judging from the significant rate of return of the absentee ballot applications and looking ahead to the November general election, she realized that it would best if title searchers could access the records online.

“It’s a fairly important thing,” Manasse told the selectmen, explaining that real estate transactions often require speed in accomplishing the steps, including the title search to be sure that the property is free of liens and other encumbrances.

“The work goes much faster if I can research it myself online,” he added, indicating that the client’s cost is less than it would be if he needed to do manual research.  

Amerighi noted that access to the land records vault is not a viable option these days due to the pandemic.

“I did not want to spend the money,” Amerighi said, “but I believe that with the virus, we must do it. It’s what people need.”

Selectman Casey Flanagan said that he saw the long-term benefit, recognizing the value of records being online.  He added that it makes sense for the records to be done.

The expense request will be forwarded to the Board of Finance for their approval at their next meeting, First Selectman Brent Colley said.

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