ROCK ISLAND — The boxes are unpacked, computers are hooked up, and it’s business as usual in the new Rock Island County recorder’s office.
Recorder Kelly Fisher and her nine staff members have settled into their new space on the second floor of the county office building, 1504 3rd Ave., after moving out of the courthouse across the street.
The recorder’s office had to find another location when county board members approved demolition of the historic county courthouse in July, where the recorder’s office and juvenile probation have been located for decades. Asbestos abatement has already begun in the courthouse, with demolition set to take place mid-January.
Fisher is happy with the new office and the accessibility it provides to the public.
“Even though the building is old, it feels modern to us,” Fisher said. “It was a lot of planning to make sure everyone’s needs could be met.”
But the move didn’t come without snags. Six months ago an engineer’s report determined the second floor of the county office building could not hold the weight of historic land records.
The recorder’s office is the caretaker of more than 2,000 large-bound books, each weighing 22 pounds.
An alternative solution was found by relocating the oldest books — called mortgage books — to the attic, and moving the record and deed books to the basement. The books are already neatly organized on shelves.
Members of the public can still access and view the books, but they must be accompanied by an employee since the room is kept locked to protect the historic documents.
The juvenile probation office was moved to the basement in the former space of the county coroner’s office, which was moved off-site.
The recorder’s office opened for business in the county office building Dec. 17.
Visitors enter through double-glass doors with fresh lettering reading, “Rock Island County, Kelly Fisher, County Recorder.”
The new office is housed in a corner of the county office building, overlooking 15th Street and 3rd Avenue.
Sunshine pours in through multiple windows, filling the spacious office with light. The public workspace has several computers and a large island counter in the middle of the room, which holds supervisor of assessment (SAM) maps, organized according to the county’s 18 townships.
Tract cabinets along the facing wall hold land records in their original, metal sliding shelves. A large research room is located in the back of the office.
“We had to fight to get this room,” Fisher said. “We absolutely needed it.”
Fisher said the new office “makes more sense customer-wise. We wanted to make this as customer-friendly as possible, and I think we’ve done a really good job.”
It’s good to be located in the same building as other county offices that use the recorder’s office, she said.
“It’s a lot handier for the public,” Fisher said. “I think they like the fact that they’re close to the treasurer’s office, the assessor’s office and the county clerk. Instead of running out in the cold, they can do everything as a one-stop shop.”
To increase convenience, two work spaces with computers are being set up in the hallway for customers to access information needed through the circuit clerk’s office, located in the Justice Center Annex, 1317 3rd Ave.
“If they don’t want to go across the street and search in that office, we’ll have a couple of (computer) terminals here that they can use,” Fisher said, noting many people who use the recorder’s office also conduct business with the circuit clerk.
To make room for the recorder’s office, the county moved Bi-State Regional Commission out of the building and gave up a board meeting room. Some walls were removed, while new carpeting, a ceiling, lighting and electrical work was installed.
The move was paid for by the Public Building Commission out of the construction budget for the annex, which will soon be called the courthouse.
Fisher said she spent about $6,000 from her own budget to purchase new desks. Other pieces of furniture, such as counters, work desks and a copy machine were donated by Circuit Clerk Tammy Weikert when she moved her office from the courthouse into the annex.
All of the historic records in the recorder’s office are currently being digitized by US Imaging and Fidlar Technologies. Fisher said the project should be complete in about a year.
“All of the old books and aperture cards have been scanned,” Fisher said. “The prints we’ll get from the scanned pages will be a lot better than copies of the actual books.”
Once that is complete, anyone can search through digital images and print copies.
Fisher’s private office is located down a hallway. Leaning against her office door is the golden shovel that her father, former Public Building Commission Chairman Dick Fisher, used for groundbreaking of the annex in April 2017.
Dick Fisher died Nov. 15, 2017, following a car accident. Kelly Fisher adorned her office with other mementos from her father, including a commemorative plaque given to all commission members for their work on the annex.
Like her father, Kelly Fisher also had a vision for leaving her mark on an important county building.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity to make it your own,” Fisher said. “This office will get passed down to whomever gets elected after me. I like the fact that we could put our own footprint on it. Change is good; we were ready for it.”