GRAFTON COUNTY REGISTER OF DEEDS
Alexandria, Ashland, Bath, Benton, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Bristol, Campton, Canaan, Dorchester, Easton, Ellsworth, Enfield, Franconia, Grafton, Groton, Hanover, Haverhill, Hebron, Holderness, Landaff, Lincoln, Lisbon, Littleton, Lyman, Lyme, Monroe, Orange, Orford, Piermont, Plymouth, Rumney, Sugar Hill, Thornton, Warren, Waterville Valley, Wentworth, Woodstock
GRAFTON COUNTY REGISTRY OF DEEDS
Kelley Jean Monahan Register
Annual Report Fiscal Year 2020
To the Citizens of Grafton County, the Honorable Commissioners and Delegation Members:
It is a great honor to present my 10th Annual Report. In reflecting on the activity of the past year, I couldn’t separate the fact that it coincided with the start of my 6th decade of life as a citizen of the United States of America. Each decade representing its own challenge and opportunity dealing with the basic human need of housing. When linked together those 6 decades told a story of America; the struggles with luck and health, business starts, employment and the ebbs and flows of our economy. These stories are very personal, but it is this link that I share with the people of our Country, State and County.
Serving as the Grafton County Register of Deeds, I have been awarded a unique and close up view of the restructuring of the industries and legislation that lead to the foreclosure crisis. The things that I have learned and experienced are unsettling, at best. But through it all, I have gained a galvanized respect for the role that these offices play in our daily lives.
Our Founding Fathers were brilliant to place the responsibility for oversight of the ownership and interest in real property into the secure and accountable hands of a local elected official. The ability to prove without any doubt what you own is a foundation of our economy. To be able to securely obtain a document that represents your most valuable asset, via many convenient avenues at a very reasonable cost, is a vast relief to our citizens.
Covid 19 arrived just as I finished my final testimony of the legislative session. Our offices are considered essential operations vital to a healthy economy. The New Hampshire Register of Deeds Association worked together to establish best practices and compliance with the Governor’s Executive Orders.
Our software partner, Fidlar Technologies of Davenport Iowa and Exeter New Hampshire, recognizing the courage and commitment of all Registry employees during this pandemic awarded every one of their partners across our Country with a $500 donation as a symbol of respect and appreciation. We thought long and hard and awarded our donation to White Mountain Mental Health. We deal with a public that is under a great deal of stress.
My team was onsite, hard at work, every day of the quarantine. Businesses adapted and the process of the recording changes in interest in real property in Grafton County continued seamlessly. We have experienced month after month of a surging volume docket count and endless inquires. My team was not included in any hazard pay stipend and a small onetime bonus that I proposed from encumbered funds was rejected by the Board of Commissioners.
I had looked ahead and 4 years ago I redirected traffic flow from the Nursing Home through this office to access other departments in this building. This was an unpopular decision which created a great deal of friction. I had to persuade the Board of Commissioners that moneys reserved in a dedicated Registry of Deeds equipment fund could be used to install safety glass over the counter as preventive measures to maintain the health and safety of my team and the public who frequent the office. Having had difficulties with the allocation of space I have been very vocal on the need to develop a Master Plan for the County Complex. In FY20 the Board of Commissioners have finally agreed to begin the Master Plan process.
We had spent over 7 years preparing for our system updates. April of 2020 marked the one year anniversary of our total system conversion. A secure and modern search system was already in use by our professionals and public as we were forced to close the building to the public during the quarantine period. As time passed we began opening the office by appointment for those professionals who needed to view the few books that remain to be scanned to digital image. This process is ongoing and by doing the work ourselves in-house, we are saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The earliest documents are all digitized and we are working daily to close our gap. Presently the documents from years 1878 through 1922 may only be accessed in house.
Our software partner provides us with great peace of mind by being on the cutting edge in defense against cybersecurity attacks. A few years ago, I had made the decision to separate from the County’s internet for security reasons and install a dedicated internet line.
I was tasked with adding two new team members in the early spring during the quarantine period. Interviewing candidates during this time was another challenge that I faced and I could not be more pleased that our team is even stronger looking to guide the next 10 years.
I spent a great deal of time in Concord in January and February serving as the Vice President of the New Hampshire Register of Deeds Association testifying on a number of bills that would have affected our operations. Due to the timing of our legislative cycle and COVID restrictions all of that effort seems to have been wasted. However, points were made and facts were stated. As we look to FY21 we will again step up to offer opinions where it is warranted.
My testimony before the Commerce Committee on February 13, 2020 represented over 6 years of work to protect these offices from efforts from our own legislators to approve a secondary private system of recording ownership of real property in the State of New Hampshire.
FY20 Revenue Total $1,022,100.00
Recording Fees $412,319.76
Online Services: $17,808.00
Our office recorded 17,541 documents to the Official Public record in FY2020, 2,473 documents over the FY19 count, receiving, processing and redistributing $12,392,483.59 to NH DRA, LCHIP and Grafton County.
FY20 closed with a $79,317.28 surplus over our anticipated revenue goal of $921,000.000, which is appropriated to the general fund to help offset the tax burden of our citizens.
When I first ran for this office in 2010 I was well aware of the events that lead to the subprime mortgage crisis. I welcomed the extraordinary opportunity that was ahead of me. I knew that I could bring my skills and voice to manage the expected evolution of technology and law that would guide these local offices into a secure future. I have now had the opportunity to work with my team and the NH Register of Deeds Association for almost 10 years. We have worked tirelessly to defend the role of the elected Register of Deeds as our New Hampshire Constitution mandates.
I have been one of the few Registrars from New Hampshire who have attended PRIA Property Records Industry Association National Conferences which brought leaders from the lending, title and technology industries together with the county elected registrars to discuss emerging issues and technologies. This restructuring was recently named the time of the “Great Acceleration”. It was always the Registers of Deeds who requested to ‘pump the brakes” on this level of acceleration, as our side of the equation involved investing tax payer dollars to keep pace with the industry leaders who always seek more speed for their own benefit. In my experience when speed is the priority, quality of the product suffers. In this case, it is the quality of the documents that represent property interest that is being sacrificed.
In a very short time we have moved from the traditional and proven paper and wet ink signature based system into a new model for the future which includes a new and secure recording system, multiple options for online records searching systems, e-recording and recently remote online notarization. This transition broken into many movable parts took many years to accomplish.
Without the commitment to excellence, eye for accuracy and knowledge that my team possess, none of this would have been possible. My core team of 4 veterans have 103 years of experience combined. The value of these staff members is very apparent if you have had any experience with this office. Their commitment to service makes the lives of everyone who frequents this office or owns interest in property in Grafton County easier and more secure. Improving the lives of our citizens should be the only goal of anyone seeking public service.
Kelley Jean Monahan
Register of Deeds