February 27, 2020

Proposed elimination of Register of Deeds strongly opposed at public hearing


During the public hearing for the potential elimination of the Arenac County register of deeds Tuesday Jan. 28, 15 people spoke before the Arenac County Board of Commissioners  and all of them voiced their opposition to delegating the duties of the register of deeds to the county clerk’s office.

Mary Magnus, a former Arenac County Register of Deeds, gave the board her perspective.

“In my experience when the offices are combined the register is run by an employee. I do not believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of this county to combine them,” she said. 

“The register is in charge of reviewing land documents and indexing them and preserving them for the county’s records,” Magnus went on to say. “These documents are used for creating the county’s tax roles. Without accurate records the treasurer could not collect the taxes that support the other offices of the county.”

Kelly Boudrie of Arenac Title Company said that she worked for six years as the deputy register of deeds in Bay County. She noted that any employee must be knowledgeable to do the best job. She also mentioned the prevalence of real estate scams.

“It’s very very imperative that we have knowledgeable people in both offices,” she said. “I don’t see how it would be wise to combine both offices. Land is one of our biggest assets. It is my job to maintain records and index these documents properly. My office is a vital office.”

Theresa Walker, the Montmorency County Register of Deeds gave the board her opinion.

“I don’t think people realize we don’t just record deeds,” she explained. “We don’t just follow the statute. We assist people. We assist title companies, we assist searchers, We are an integrated part of the entire courthouse equalization department. It sounds like a simple thing to put a document of record, but there is so much involved in that document. We stop fraud at the counter. We see things that normal people don’t look at on these documents. It’s an art to be a register, believe it or not,” she said.

“The claim that eliminating your elected register of deeds will save a bunch of money doesn’t hold much water,” current Arenac County Register of Deeds Darlene Mikkola wrote in a letter to the Independent. “The work done by our office will still have to be done, but instead it will be done by an additional county employee - wiping out any savings. Furthermore, the register of deeds office is the only department that does not cost counties money because it generates more revenue than expenses. In fact, they bring in revenues that underwrites the cost of other government services such as public safety.”

Chairman of the board of commissioners Harold Woolhiser acknowledged the overwhelming opposition to the proposed merger at the hearing.

“I started out with pros and cons, I have 15 cons and no pro’s,” said. He said there wouldn’t be a decision that day per the law and thanked everyone who spoke to the board.

According to Arenac County Clerk Rick Rockwell, under Michigan law the board cannot vote until 10 days after the public hearing. The commissioners have the issue on their agenda for their Feb. 11th meeting and that will likely be the day of action for a decision.


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