County to make property deeds available online


Sussex County is about to take the centuries-old practice of recording property deeds into the digital age.

The County Council, at its Tuesday, Aug. 11, meeting, approved the final element of the plan – a contract with the service provider and a schedule of fees for making deeds available online for printing at remote locations, such as a home or office.

With the service, the public will be able to view, for free, digital copies of property deeds recorded in Sussex County. Users will be able to print a copy of any deed available, for a fee, but will not be charged unless they print the documents.

“This service is all about providing convenience to the public,” said Recorder of Deeds John F. Brady. “It’s our hope that by making deeds available online, it will save the public, as well as title searchers working for law firms, the time and expense associated with coming all the way to Georgetown to view or copy a property record.”

The Recorder of Deeds Office, so far, has digitally scanned property records dating back approximately 12 years, to 1997, and will continue to scan deeds from previous years. Brady said the goal is to eventually have all deeds in his office’s possession, dating back to the early 1800s, available online.

The council on Tuesday approved a contract with vendor Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas to provide the service, which will be offered through the county’s Web site at www.sussexcountyde.gov.

The county will not pay for the service. Instead, those who print copies will pay a $1-per-page fee, or a $50 monthly subscription for a reduced per-page fee, to use the service.

“It’s easier for the users,” explained Finance Director Susan Webb. “They don’t have to come into the building.”

“We may not have to put those parking spots in, if we go this way,” replied Councilman Sam Wilson, referring to the council’s recent decision to approve the creation of additional parking near the County Administrative Building in Georgetown, specifically to better accommodate visitors on county business.

Kathy Pepper, representing the Recorder of Deeds Office, noted that the free access to the documents will include all documents that the office has scanned to that point.

“We have 12 years of backlogged documents that you can see the image for, and we’re working on scanning the rest of them,” she said. “As long as you don’t hit that print button, you won’t be charged.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the contract and fee schedule for the service.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time. I’m glad to see it finally happening,” said Council President Vance Phillips.