Town clerks get the job done despite the pandemic
“One researcher in my office at a time, with gloves and mask on."— Monkton Town Clerk Sharon Gomez
ADDISON COUNTY — After closing their doors to outside visitors more than a month ago, local municipal clerks have been slowly opening up to more an more services.
But restrictions still apply, and clerks urge everyone to call before coming to their town offices. And don’t forget your mask.
In Vergennes, City Clerk Morgan Kittredge is ready to handle title searches, notarize documents, and provide marriage licenses, but as of late this week only by appointment and with at least a day’s notice.
“It’s just call and find a time,” Kittredge said.
City office workers can provide most or all of the documents legal professionals need for most title searches via scanning and emailing. Kittredge said real estate deals and refinances in Vergennes have gone through without physical visits to Vergennes City Hall, in part because city records are indexed back 40 years.
“They’re able to certify this way,” she said.
Kittredge acknowledged it might be more difficult to do virtual business in smaller towns with less technology, and advised calling well in advance to assess what each community can provide.
“There are towns where things have screeched to a halt,” she said.
Vergennes City Hall may be reached at 877-2811.
Ferrisburgh also required appointments and typically a day’s notice, but according to Town Clerk Pam Cousino the town has been handling one or two title searches a day — and one marriage license in recent weeks, an application she accepted at the door and dealt with while the prospective groom waited in the parking lot.
Cousino said most title searches in Ferrisburgh are also helped along virtually, but in most cases professionals come in to apply the finishing touches, with masks required. The town is also installing a Plexiglass guard at its service window, and as of late this week will allow only two people, including visitors, in its main office area.
Ferrisburgh’s town offices may be reached at 877-3429.
The Middlebury town offices — including the clerk’s office — remain closed for in-person transactions.
However, that hasn’t stopped people from getting their business done, said Middlebury Town Clerk Ann Webster.
Middlebury land records can be accessed online at tinyurl.com/middlandrecords.
Also, people can find a form on the town website that can be used to request myriad documents, such as birth certificates and other vital records. Usually Webster (or one of her staff) has an email exchange with the customer that culminates in the document being mailed to the client, she said.
Webster has processed only a few marriage licenses during the pandemic. She will go out of the building to meet the person(s) outside for signature(s).
The only thing she hasn’t resumed yet is notarizing documents.
Webster believes the town clerk’s office will remain closed to the general public until at least May 15 (the tentative conclusion to the governor’s stay-at-home mandate), after which the town manager will reassess the situation.
The town of Bristol allows real estate researchers in by appointment only, Town Clerk Sharon Lucia said. Only one researcher is allowed during any time slot and must estimate how long they think the research will take.
“We have asked researchers to use our online land records system (COTTs) as much as possible especially for updates,” Lucia said. “At this time the electronic land records date from July 2015 to the present.”
Bristol town office staff have not been allowing appraisers, real estate agents or the public into the office to obtain documents.
“We ask them to send emails with their request and we email the documents back to them with the charge for copies included,” Lucia said. “We do not perform any research either as we do not have title insurance.”
Bristol posted Gov. Scott’s “stay safe” guidelines on the door, and asks everyone entering the building to follow them.
“We clean all surfaces once a researcher leaves,” Lucia said.
In Monkton, Town Clerk Sharon Gomez is attempting to do searches for people and emailing or faxing the General Index info and also book and page info to them.
“If the researcher needs a more in-depth search done I will allow them in by appointment,” Gomez said. “One researcher in my office at a time, with gloves and mask on. My plan is to keep this process in place at least until the end of May. Only time will tell.
Gomez called herself a “disinfecting queen” when cleaning up after a visitor leaves.
“I am spraying and cleaning every surface,” she said. “With my assistant on oxygen and I also care for my two elder in-laws. And I also have a two-month-old grandbaby. I cannot take any chances.”
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