Southeast Missouri’s Carter County has been awarded a $100,000 grant to freeze-dry and decontaminate records and documents submerged in eight feet of water during flooding in May.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (picture from Facebook)

A crew dispatched from the Secretary of State’s office spent 420 hours air drying time sensitive documents immediately after the flood. Secretary Jay Ashcroft says he issued the grant to cover the mass quantity of other important records that are stored at county court houses.

“There’s such a large volume of documents that it was more economical to do the vast majority of them on the commercial side with people that have much larger equipment, that are set up in much greater volume to replicate those documents and that’s what that $100,000 grant is for.”

The allocation marks the first use of a “records emergency grant” since a tornado heavily damaged southwest Missouri’s Pierce City in 2003.

Carter County and the city of Van Buren were especially hard hit by the flooding in late April and early May.  Governor Greitens made a special trip to the area after the weather event to personally thank first responders for their work.

The entire first floor of the county court house building was immersed in water for a couple of days from the flooding.  Carter County Clerk Leona Stephens says important documents were in danger of being destroyed.  “This flood has been a total devastation for our county government and our community, including the loss of our county records” said Clark.

Ashcroft notes his office worked with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to get special equipment to the courthouse directly following the floods.

“As soon as the water goes down, as soon as those documents are no longer covered by water, it’s like a timer starts.  You’ve got about 48 hours to get those frozen and stop the process of decomposition and mold growth, or else it’s going to be too late.”

The funding for records emergency grants comes from a portion of fees counties charge to fulfill requests for documents from the public.  Ashcroft says records being preserved through the grant are vital to the local community.

“The title records of who owns the property are very important.  The Budget records, contract records, financial for the county are all very important.  There are electoral records that are required to be kept.”  Ashcroft said it was great to be able to support the effort to protect historical records for the county.