C&G News: Macomb County Clerk’s Office goes virtual during pandemic

By Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published June 4, 2020

MACOMB COUNTY — Even a global pandemic does not obstruct the flow of records and information. Just ask Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Fred Miller and his staff.

Elected in 2018, Miller vowed to restore what at the time was a fractured office with inconsistent customer service. That included initial signage changes, customer service kiosk updates and a refreshed, more streamlined website that could provide citizens with easier access when it came to obsolete forms or personal information.

Miller also revived the Mobile Clerk’s Office, which provided a plethora of average clerk services at libraries, schools and offices in numerous municipalities. This was done by utilizing cloud-based technology that allowed for remote access to records management, as well as printing and indexing.

From April 2019 to March of this year, a total of 21 mobile stops in 16 communities were conducted. The final event, just prior to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive stay-at-home order, drew a record turnout in Sterling Heights.

Now, with quarantine measures still in effect, the Clerk’s Office used the innovations and improvements laid in the groundwork of the mobile office to deliver a “Virtual Clerk’s Office.” Miller said he and his employees had to grasp the amount of work that was accomplished pre-pandemic and extend it in a different fashion once county residents were homebound.

“It built our capacity to the pandemic and the challenges we’ve all been confronting the past couple months. … It’s really been a kind of fascinating thing to see, a study of how you adapt to circumstances,” he said.

The last time the entire staff was together was the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Miller is still working daily, along with a handful of others, out of the Macomb County Circuit Court. Some employees are on-site to open or send mail correspondence.

About 90% of county employees are working remotely, but still constantly connected.

Throughout the first 10 weeks of the virtual office, staff processed more than 6,000 requests — exceeding the office’s original expectations. That included free searches for residents in regard to land records, as well as free copies of recorded documents.

The biggest hurdle arguably was the inability to process first-time Concealed Pistol License, or CPL, applications due to fingerprints being required. On June 1, Miller said a list of applicants was being compiled for when the Sheriff’s Office starts fingerprinting again, which could be in the near future.

Just before Memorial Day weekend, a “Quick Serve” system was established without additional taxpayer cost to allow citizens to make requests virtually, after hours and on weekends.

“I think the public has responded very well, and it’s all about managing expectations,” Miller said. “There’s nobody in America who doesn’t understand what’s going on right now.”

Visit macombgov.org/ClerkRoD to access services, records and other information. Residents without internet access, or those uncomfortable with using technology to access records or make requests, can leave messages at any of the office’s seven main phone numbers.

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