Apr 18, 2023 - Politics

Years of Cleveland records exist only on microfiche

Black and white photo of men viewing documents on microfiche readers

This may or may not be an image of Cleveland fire inspectors reviewing documents in the year of our Lord 2023. (It's not. It's members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in their Family History Library in 1981.) Photo: Francois Lochon/Getty Images

Cleveland City Council approved an ordinance last night that will allocate $130,000 in federal pandemic funding to the Cleveland Division of Fire to digitally scan troves of documents that currently exist only on microfiche.

Threat level: Fire chief Anthony Luke told council's safety committee last week that some 12 to 15 years' worth of city occupancy records and incident reports are stored exclusively on microfiche ā€” and the machine that reads the film can no longer be repaired.

  • "It's out of service; we can't get parts for it," he said. "To my knowledge, we're the only department in the city of Cleveland with records still on film."

Why it matters: The division routinely receives public records requests for the occupancy and permitting history of city buildings from developers and business owners looking to expand or modify properties.

  • Digitalization will allow the records to be accessed remotely and provided much more quickly.

What they're saying: "This is a step into the 21st century," said public safety director Karrie Howard. "This is about efficiency and modernization of what the hard-working men and women of our division do."

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