When Doug Agerton was seeking the Escambia County Judge of Probate office in 2012, one of the promises he made was to expand services offered at the satellite courthouse in Atmore. It took most of five years, but that promise is now being fulfilled.
Thanks to the installation of new software, bankers, lawyers and anyone else can now have deeds, mortgages and other documents recorded without a trip to the county seat.
“This is something I’ve been wanting to do since I’ve been Probate Judge,” Agerton said during the August 11 unveiling of the new service. “We wanted to utilize this satellite office as much as we could, to have all the resources on the west end of the county that we do in the Brewton area. It doesn’t make sense for somebody to be in Nokomis and drive all the way to Brewton, Alabama to get something recorded when they could come right here to this office and do it.”
The county’s financial struggles kept the plan, which was fairly expensive, on the back burner until a need arose for an upgrade in the Judge of Probate’s Brewton office. Then all the stars fell in line.
“We’ve had an old stamp machine there and it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t even order parts for it anymore,” the judge explained. “We finally got (County Administrator) Tony Sanks and Joy Anderson, our IT lady, on board and they took over everything. We could have kept recording like we were doing, but we felt like we could take in the satellite office, too. We felt like this was the time to do it, while we were doing the upgrade in Brewton, and we were able to get the county commission on board.”
Agerton pointed out that the plan’s strongest proponents were District 4’s Brandon Smith and District 5’s David Quarker, who represent the people in Atmore and the surrounding area.
“We want to thank the commission,” he said. “Commissioner Quarker and Commissioner Smith were really on board with this because these are their people.
They really helped us.”
The new software not only officially records the document or documents presented, but also cuts down on the employee time such a transaction usually entails.
But the benefits are more widespread than that.
“It’s much easier on our employees doing the recording,” he said. “Basically, we run it through the scanner, and it figures all the pricing and everything so they don’t have to sit down and count pages. It’s helped a lot on that part, but more than anything else, I think it will help the community.”
Bob Jones, president and CEO of United Bank, was on hand for the announcement. He said the new local service was “a big deal,” one that would generate numerous benefits, including elimination of the need to relocate employees.
“Historically, when we’ve dealt with customers on this end of the county, if we had a document we needed to record, we had to carry it all the way to Brewton to do that, so it’s been a real inconvenience for the customers and the citizens down here,” said Jones. “We’re very happy. Banks, attorneys, anyone executing legal documents will be able to process them here instead of having to go all the way to Brewton. It’s going to greatly enhance the efficiency of what we’re doing.
“It’s good to see the importance of this courthouse. Being able to do it right here, in terms of jobs, when you’re looking at people and the work they do, we were having to decide if we were going to keep those jobs here or put them closer to where we could record the documents. This ensures that we’re able to process and do the things we have to do right here.”
Natalie Rogers, chief clerk for the probate office, announced that a new mailing address (Judge of Probate, P.O. Box 826, Atmore AL 36504) will also enhance the recording and filing of legal documents.
“We just opened the post office box for the Atmore office yesterday,” she said. “People can send the documents to the box, and we can get it back to them if they can’t come in. So now they can drop by to get the documents recorded, or they can mail them to us.”
Agerton said he hopes the new method of document recording won’t be the only enhancement added to the satellite courthouse office.
“The wheels of government turn slow,” he laughed. “But I’m proud of (the new service), glad we’re able to help people in the west end of the county. There are a couple of other things we want to try and do in this office, but this was one of the main things because we wanted to be able to record in this satellite office.