I was shocked when I saw Michael Butler’s responses to the 15th Ward Democrats candidate survey questions for St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds candidates.
10. How are you working/would you work to make this office a 21st Century office?
Yes, I will improve our online image, online access to vital records, and digitize our archives.
The “digitize our archives” was truly bizarre because digitizing records- new and old- has been going on for quite some time at the Recorder of Deeds. Scanning takes place in four Recorder departments. When employees aren’t engaged in customer services, they are working on document conservation, preservation (digital scanning), and access (indexing) of records new to very old. One of the great improvements to the office over the past three years has been the increased cross training. At the St. Louis City Recorder’s office, everyone is an archivist to some degree.
Butler saying he will “digitize our archives” is like saying he is running for Recorder of Deeds to record deeds, as if deed recordation was something new he had invented.
But what really blew me away was his advocacy of “online access to vital records.” That access would be via VitalChek. The “service” costs more and takes longer than services by the St. Louis City Recorder of Deeds.
Walk-In Birth Certificate service by the Recorder at City Hall costs $15 (or $16.50 if by credit card because of the service fee) and takes a few minutes.
Mail-In Birth Certificate service by the Recorder at City Hall costs $15 and 50 Cents postage. It goes out by regular mail same day received and generally gets to a customer in 1-3 days.
Online VitalChek Birth Certificate service costs $24.50-$27.25. It goes out by regular mail in 3-5 days and you can expect it in 7-10 days, per the company.
Overnight Express is an additional $19.00, meaning $43.50 Total. But Overnight Express will still take 1-2 days to process and on the 3rd day you may get it.
The additional cost and wait is not the only problem with VitalChek. The pull down menu for ordering favors the Missouri Department of Health. That’s who will process the copy request and get the $15 copy fee portion of the payment, revenue currently generated to the City of St. Louis.
The State of Missouri Health Department’s Vital Records Office in Jefferson City ran out of Birth Certificate forms last week. So if you are waiting on a VitalChek copy, it may be awhile. The City Recorder’s Birth and Death Certificate offices have never run out of forms.
The City Recorder generates somewhere around $1 Million a year to the City of St. Louis from Birth and Death Certificate copies. The City cannot afford a drop in revenue from any source. Butler’s plan to use VitalChek would be a costly mistake to both customers and the City.
— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman
Disclaimer: I have worked at the City Recorder of Deeds for a very long time, before I was elected a committeewoman. My job is not dependent on my politics. My ward organization has not endorsed in the Recorder’s race yet (6/10/2018). This post was written without consultation with my supervisors or the Recorder. I represent myself here and no one else.