Castleton vault situation called ‘pitiful’
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | January 11,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Castleton Town Clerk Katy Thornblade strains to open the temporary outside vault, in which town records dating to the 1700s are stored.
CASTLETON — Conditions at the town clerk’s temporary storage vault in Castleton have raised concerns about the town’s records — and about those who work with them.
Cyd Isleib, a paralegal who researches town records across the state, called it “a very pitiful situation” that has deteriorated to a point where some paralegals may refuse to do title searches in Castleton until things change.
“I go to four or five towns a day and none of them are like Castleton’s,” she said Wednesday.
Growing concerns include inadequate heating in the storage vault, having to work a large metal door while carrying records out of the vault, and uneven steps between the vault door and the town clerk’s office. The list could grow, Isleib said.
“If it’s windy, snowing or raining, I will not go to the town of Castleton,” she said. “It’s not conducive to do work.”
Town Clerk Katy Thornblade said she has gotten complaints from paralegals and researchers on what can be called “a disastrous situation.”
“It’s complicated,” she said. “I have been trying to get things done.”
An auxiliary heat pump in the container-like vault only warms the interior to about 45 degrees, Isleib said. The vault doors do not operate from the inside, meaning any time researchers go inside the unit, they have to keep it slightly open, regardless of the weather.
If anyone has to take records to photocopy, the records need to be covered in plastic bags so they are not affected by the weather.
“It’s really unpleasant,” Thornblade said. “If those records were destroyed, nobody could sell their houses.”
The town of Castleton bought the temporary vault for $5,000 when the town offices were moved from a building on Main Street in the summer of 2011. The vault was used previously by two Vermont municipalities before Thornblade recommended it to the town.
It is now parked across the street from the temporary town offices, next to the town clerk’s office. It holds the majority of the town’s records going back to the 1700s.
Last year the town clerk approached town officials with a $5,000 proposal to build a roof between the vault container and her office, but it was rejected because of the cost. She recently approached the board again without much success.
“It’s a matter of concern,” Thornblade said.
Town Manager Charles Jacien said the town is working on addressing the heat issue but not much more. He said they have used the temporary vault just fine for more than a year and the records will be maintained.
“The documents in the vault are the responsibility of the town clerk,” he said. “It’s not the most ideal condition. We are in a temporary situation.”
Rachel Muse, records manager for the state archives, said state law does not have clear guidelines on how vaults should be kept. She said the state keeps its at about 65 degrees with 40 percent relative humidity, but acknowledged that not all towns can maintain those conditions.
Muse said the main concern is the safety of the records and making sure they are secure whenever someone goes inside to handle them.
“Without any clear guideline in statute, there is little enforcement possibility,” she said.
Thornblade said sufficient heat and a cover to keep out the snow, rain and wind, would be ideal.