The state's archives are jammed to overflowing, and officials are thinking about destroying some records to make room for others.
The amount of records on file in the state's warehouse in West Valley is staggering. Every felony charge ever filed against anyone is stored there. There are property and water rights filings predating statehood. There's a copy or original draft of every letter ever written by a governor.Some of the items provide a humorous glimpse of the past. One ancient leather-bound volume is the 1891 "Book of Drunks." Public intoxication arrests are chronicled, detailing the $5 to $25 fines per offense, in flowing penmanship.
And there's the 1906 Ogden Poll Tax Register. Voting cost $3 back then, or about three days pay, said Jeff Johnson, state archivist.
But it's mostly court documents that has the state Division of Archives and Record Services 120,000-square-foot building nearly filled. Nearly 100,000 square feet are filled.
The 3rd Judicial District alone - the courts in Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties - accounts for about 2,500 square feet of new records each year. That district has been told not to bring any more records. And Weber-Davis courts, the 2nd District, may be next.
George Berkley, a management analyst with the 2nd District, has been tapped to find a solution. He's rewriting the state courts' "retention schedule," which determines how long records are kept.
Currently, all records of felonies have permanent status at the archives. Berkley is recommending that status continue for only the most serious offenses. He suggests that court records of third-degree felonies, the least serious offenses which comprise three-fourths of all felony charges filed, be destroyed after 20 years.
Otherwise, 3rd District court could be forced to rent storage sheds by the end of the year.
Meantime, Johnson said the division hopes to get a new building within four years. It could cost $6 million.