Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Whether it's to find out why a local ordinance might have been crafted or to discover who might have come up with such an idea, Baker City receives numerous requests for information every year.

Some people want to know about actions taken by elected officials or committee members decades ago. This is why having access to records of events that occurred 10, 20 or even 100 years ago is important.

Oregon Administrative Rules require public meeting minutes of council meetings, along with those of boards, commissions, committees and other advisory groups, be held permanently in virtually all instances.

Ordinances are to be kept forever as well.

Executive session minutes are an exception-these only need to be held for 10 years. Audio and video recordings only need to be held for one year, according to the rules.

Minutes are the official record of an event, and in writing. Taking them down isn't a word-for-word process;it's a summary of what occurred, said Becky Fitzpatrick, the city recorder.

She's usually the person taking down the minutes at Baker City Council meetings, for example.

Historic documents

The records vault at Baker City Hall is constructed of concrete. Some of the records date to the late 1800s, though most needing to be copied are from the mid-20th century.

Integra Paperless Business Solutions in Boise will copy the documents for the city.

The documents will be digitized and filmed. And the material should be back in the vault early in 2013.

"They're going to have to treat them very carefully," said City Manager Mike Kee.

The older documents are enclosed in time-weathered leather bindings and entirely handwritten. Some of the ink has faded or run.

Integra was given records that appeared to be in the worst condition first.

Other documents will be copied later, as money comes for the work and as other records require the information contained be saved, Kee said.

These pages are often delicate and could easily fall apart when touched, let alone turned, during a search for a particular event, Kee and Fitzpatrick pointed out.

"There's some amazing historic information in those books," Kee said. The binders are filled with information "we'll never be able to re-create."

Important allocation

The $5,000 for the work almost wasn't allocated this year.

It wasn't considered a high-priority expenditure this past spring as the city's budget board made this year's spending decisions.

"A lot of choices had to be made," Kee said of the budget process. "It boils down to the priorities of the council."

Interest was in funding such things as burying utility lines along Resort Street as part of the street and sidewalk improvement project, as well as trying to put more money aside for an emergency.

Money for digitizing some of the information was restored to the budget because the state requires communities keep meeting minutes permanently.

However, the process of preserving the documents will be gradual, Kee said.

"That's how small cities need to do things. Street projects are the same way," he explained.

Other local government departments have state-mandated record retention rules. Annual reports, organizational records, cemetery records, and emergency and disaster incident records are some of the other documents that must be kept permanently.

Some documents created for elections, municipal airports, public works, and planning and development also need to held in perpetuity.

Records Available Online

An array of city records is available online and downloadable for free at the city's website: http://bakercity.com/government/archives

Recent materials available:

andbull; Airport Commission Minutes

andbull; Budget Board Minutes

andbull; Charter and Municipal Code of Ordinances

andbull; City Council Agendas, Packets, Minutes, and Videos

andbull;City Development Code

andbull; Golf Board Minutes

andbull; Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Minutes

andbull; Planning Commission Minutes

andbull; Reports and Statistics

andbull; Tree Board Minutes

andbull; Weekly Report Updates

For other records, fill out a Public Records Request form. It's also available online but must be filled out and returned to Becky Fitzpatrick, city recorder.

For details, contact Fitzpatrick at 541-524-2033 or email her at bfitzpatrick@bakercity.com .