EAST HAVEN, CT —From the very first days of the pandemic back in the winter of 2020, East Haven Town Clerk Stacy Gravino and staff stayed at their posts even as the office was physically closed to the public. She said the office needed to remain open to “receive recordings for land records, vital record requests via the mail, marriage license applications, and funeral directors filing death certificates.”
During those early days and beyond, she said that while the office was shuttered to in person visits, it gave her the time she needed to “take stock of our technology situation as I realized being closed to the public made it difficult” for people who needed copies of vital, and land, records. It “wasn’t an easy task,” she said as those requests would have to be done through the mail: the town clerk’s office “was not equipped to with any online record request platforms.”
It could not be business as usual, she said, an overhaul was needed.
Here are the steps that were taken, according to Gravino:
- Changed office operating system software company. This hadn’t been done in 20 years. The new company, IQS (Info Quick Solutions, Inc), which is more user friendly and offers a better searching experience. Title searchers can view and print documents without having to come into the office, this was especially helpful during the shutdown.
- Updated staff computers.
- Provided a document drop box so people can drop off documents during off hours, was especially helpful during shutdown.
- Indexed and scanned onto land record system all open town tax liens and Greater New Haven WPCA sewer use liens from 2006 to current. (I realized while the office was closed to the public, title searchers could not access these liens and so a disclaimer had to be attached to each search indicating such)
- Even though the office was closed, I was still able to apply for and receive a grant from the Connecticut State Library. The grant was for the restoration and preservation of Town meeting minute books dating from 1680 to 1922. I also provided to the Hagaman Memorial Library a thumb drive containing the restored minutes for their archives and online portal. I received another grant this year to index and scan all Military Discharge documents on file in the office for easier staff access.
- Procurement and installation of plexi-glass barriers to protect staff and public.
- Implemented online vital record request portal, a vital record can be requested, paid for, and mailed to your residence without having to step into the office.
- IQS, the office operating system, has provided a fraud protection portal free of charge to the Town and its property owners. The link is provided on Town website, once you have signed up, you will receive an alert if a document with your name on it has been filed on the land records in the Town Clerk’s Office.
- Started to accept credit/debit cards in office which has been a tremendous asset.
- In response to requests from residents, starting in June 2022, dog license renewals can be done online through IQS, thus alleviating the need to come to the office.
- Continued indexing and scanning onto land record system of documents prior to 1977 so as to facilitate an even more complete title search from either in or out of the Town Clerk’s Office.
- Implemented e-recording of documents for recordation on land records, which makes it easier for attorneys to filed documents
- Even during the pandemic shutdown, the Town Clerk’s Office was able to reach our revenue goal.
East Haven Town Attorney Michael Luzzi noted that the clerk’s office is the liaison between government and the public and performs myriad tasks that keep the town running from recording and maintaining all town public records, including, importantly, historical land records and real estate transactions, vital statistic records, and licensing and very often, duties related to elections.
“So many things that are important to commerce in a town,” he said.
Luzzi said Gravino, “worked hard to make sure that these services continued to run as required during COVID-19 and in many instances enhanced services for customers of her office, adding that a strong working relationship is required between the offices of the town clerk, mayor, town attorney and Town Council.
“And we continue to have that,” he said.