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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 31, 2001

Land data office goes paperless

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Real estate and other legal documents filed with the state will be available to review within 24 hours on a new computer system installed at the Bureau of Conveyances, according to Acting Registrar Carl Watanabe.

In the past, staff had to check documents for accuracy, then enter the information on three different computer systems by hand, Watanabe said last week.

"It used to be that there would be a seven-day wait for people to view their recorded information on microfiche," he said.

After two years of planning and development, at a cost of $2.1 million, "we will utilize a paperless environment to extract data and eliminate much of the duplication we currently have," Watanabe said of the system to begin operating soon.

The next step will be to add Internet and remote access, hopefully by the end of March, Watanabe said.

An unexpected side benefit is that employees freed from handling sheet after sheet of paper no longer will suffer the daily paper cuts that always have been a part of the job, he said.

The Bureau of Conveyances, the main records center for Hawai'i real estate transactions, handles 300,000 documents a year, including mortgages, judgments, agreements of sale, military discharge papers, liens and other legal notices.

In addition to improving service, Watanabe said, the new system is expected to cut thousands of dollars a year in overtime costs.

Documents initially will be stored on microfilm, but later moved to digital media.

Watanabe said the bureau had a staff of 65 in the early 1990s, but is down to 52, though its work volume has not declined.

The changeover results from initiatives taken by Gov. Ben Cayetano shortly after his election in 1994, Watanabe said. Conversion work began in June 2000.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.