Saving History

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Charlevoix County Surveyor Larry Feindt recently requested funding to turn fragile land records into digital documents

By Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor

Charlevoix County has land records dating back to the 1800s … and as a result, they are starting to crumble.

Charlevoix County Surveyor Larry Feindt—the man in charge of overseeing the care of these records—recently requested funding in order to help turn the records from fragile paper to digital documents.


“The county surveyor’s office contains important historic records documenting the earliest control established in the late 1800s by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when Michigan’s Public Land Survey System was being established,” Feindt wrote in a Jan. 30 letter to the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners. “Additionally, there are numerous documentary historical records and surveys in the form of old books and maps which have been compiled by the various county surveyors since that time. Those records are frequently accessed by surveyors today, and continue to be of the utmost importance in maintaining and establishing property and road boundaries.”

The keeping of old land records and the updating of the physical markers that show where your property ends and public property begins is referred to as “remonumentation” and the county currently funds the program with $16,000.

“The remonumentation grant was cut (by the state) by approximately $16,000,” said Charlevoix County Clerk Cherie Browe, who administers the remonumentation program. “He is trying to protect the county land records that go back to the 1800s and he’s done as much as he can personally out of his own office and he is just not able to do any more on his own.”

According to Browe, the remonumentation program was supposed to be a 20-year program.

“At the rate we’re going it’s going to take 75 years to finish the program because the state keeps cutting the funding,” she said. “And, he’s very concerned about the fragile records that are being deteriorating that others are coming in to view.”

Browe added, “He has tried other avenues to get funding for that—those efforts have not been successful so he is asking that the county supplement that to protect those records that are irreplaceable.”

The statewide remonumentation programs are supposed to be funded through state grants that consist of moneys obtained through fees collected whenever a document is recorded at a register of deeds.

However, due to state budget cuts, those numbers continue to dwindle.

“Although the Charlevoix County Surveyor has no salary, over the past several years, Charlevoix County has graciously contributed $16,000 annually to supplement the previously described funding which, although not a large amount, has really helped to support our remonumentation program,” Feindt stated. “The money received by Charlevoix County from Lansing to fund the remonumentation program … is very limited—$47,753 in 2012 and reduced to $32,357 for 2013—which has severely restrained our ability to make progress toward the consummation of this important program.”
He added, “The current level of funding … is, and has been, only sufficient to remonument 12 to 15 corners per year. At this rate, the program will require over 75 more years to complete.”

Charlevoix County Commissioners voted unanimously, during their Feb. 27 meeting, to allocate the $16,000 to the remonumentation program.

The additional $16,000 would be deducted from the county’s $29,000 general fund reserve for scanning.

The new $32,000 remonumentation funds from the county will be used for the following purposes:

-To help cover administrative costs incurred by the county surveyor. These include preparation of documents associated with legally-mandated quality-based selection process, grant applications, entry o corner information into the state computer database, corner counts, data management and attendance at educational meetings.

-Provide funding for completing the scanning and indexing of all the historical survey records in the county surveyor’s office. Most of the public land corners confirmed or reset are “strongly” based on that historic information.

-Expedite the determination of precise geographic positions (also known as “state plane coordinates” to document and preserve locations of public land corners. There are approximately 1,622 public land corners in Charlevoix County that were established in the 1840s. Of those, 587 have been re-established but the geographic positions have only been measured on 190 of them.

According to Feindt, he has discovered that some of the corners have been obliterated by construction.

“It is difficult and expensive to reestablish lost corners if state plane coordinates have not been previously measured on them, and requires repeating some of the remonumentation work already conducted,” Feindt wrote. “We need to begin to measure the coordinates for corners at a faster pace or we will never catch up with the corners being remonumented.”