The city is undergoing a transformation that will bring its city records into the digital age.

A large cache of the city’s files are being scanned to electronic format which can then be searched online via a staff computer.

The move will free up storage space and eliminate cumbersome searches through boxes of old files and records, according to City Administrator Harold Selby.

Da-Com, a St. Louis-based copier and printer supplier, was awarded the $26,615 contract to convert the records.

More than 200,000 pages of city records, such as old water bills, business licenses, building and occupancy permits, and purchase contracts will become part of a digital archive that staff members can search with any of several key words.

“So far there have been 187,704 images (pages) scanned,” Selby said. “We have at least another 20,000 pages to be scanned.

“The pages are part of the permanent records of city business that staff members had to search through when confirmation of former transactions was needed,” he said.  “They show all of the transactions the city has done.”

The digital archive will be accessed when staff members need to go back and do searches or access the data from years ago.

“We now have the ability to do that on the computer,” Selby said.

The paper records can now be destroyed and that service was included in the price.

The decision to convert paper files to digital images started when city hall was being rebuilt.

“We had all these files that were taking up so much space,” Selby said. “When someone requested information, we would have to flip through these files/books in order to retrieve information. So we decided to free up the space and also make it easier to find data.”

Da-Com scanned the files in a way that the data on the pages could be accessed in a variety of searches.

“We can search by account numbers, names or anything else on each page,” Selby explained. “What we can do going forward is scan our own files to keep this from happening again. Our copy machines from Da-Com will allow us to scan. We set that up after we moved back into city hall.”

Aldermen approved the project at their May 20 board meeting.

Selby said Da-Com is almost finished with its work.

Mayor Jeff Palmore said he’s concerned that the scanned images would be received on flash drive rather than CD.

“Those things don’t last like a CD,” Palmore said.

Alderman Mike Pigg suggested that the city could download the data onto a CD and store the images both ways.

Ed Gass agreed, saying a dual storage medium is necessary so the city would have a permanent backup of the files.