Francis announces $93K in grant funding

Published 8:57 pm Monday, May 8, 2023

Southampton Circuit Court Clerk Richard L. “Rick” Francis recently announced that he has received $93,000 in funding to equip the room that will store the county’s historic records once the Southampton County Courthouse renovations are complete.

Francis noted that the Record Room will be a third smaller than it was in the old courthouse.

“To save costs, the new Record Room was downsized to just accommodate the hard books we then had in place,” he said, “so I had to make plans for our paper files and create room for future expansion.”

While modern records are 95% digital, Francis and his staff must make room for about 18 hard-bound books each year. 

“The (Southampton County) Board of Supervisors was gracious in providing funding allowing me to back scan thousands of paper files, going as far back in time as the Supreme Court could accommodate,” he said. “Based upon our page estimates, I asked the (Board of Supervisors) for as much as $130,000, which was approved. When we got into the actual scanning, we learned that the Supreme Court could only accept, in bulk, images going back about 1991, so I was not able to go back as far as I wanted.”

Southampton Deputy County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Lynette C. Lowe said the amount spent on the project was $36,507. 

Francis said, “I will still owe back scanners some additional money for storage and ultimately shredding the documents already scanned.”

To provide space for newly restored books, he noted that he made applications over the past two years to the Library of Virginia and also other sources of grant funding from the state.

“The Library of Virginia has awarded us $71,400 with which we can purchase high density roller shelving units, and the state has awarded us $8,500 for stackable plat storage units and another $14,000 to purchase a high-quality desktop microfilm scanner to eliminate the floorspace space required by our present scanner, which is about 18 years old,” Francis said.

He noted that since taking office Jan. 1, 2008, he has applied for and received a little more $315,000 to restore old books, digitize records and purchase needed equipment. 

“At the end of the day, it is still taxpayers’ money, but I first look for state money rather than the local green,” he said.

He expects the new Record Room at the renovated courthouse to be operational in the first quarter of 2024.