published Monday, December 2nd, 2013

East Tennessee officials consider access to records

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Officials in an East Tennessee county are considering ideas on how to make historical records more accessible to the public.

Sullivan County Commissioner Bill Kilgore, who serves on the Historic Records Commission, told the Bristol Herald Courier that there's been discussion of charging a filing fee and using the revenue to relocate the records to a more central location.

"We want to get them into (Blountville) where they are accessible for general review," Kilgore said.

The records — birth certificates, marriage licenses and wills — are stored at the former Sullivan House, about 5 miles from downtown Blountville. The building is not open to the public.

Any requests for access to the documents must currently be handled by Shelia Steele Hunt, Sullivan County director of archives and tourism, who is dealing with a backlog.

"I have a long list of people who have requested records over the last few months," said Hunt, who has fielded complaints and agrees that the records should be more accessible.

"People can't begin to understand the depth of work ahead," she said.

Mayor Steve Godsey said is hopeful a solution will be found, but noted that changes wouldn't be quick.

"There is a lot of work that needs to be done before they are accessible to the public," he said.

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