Here are the Top Ten registry of deeds events of 2010 in no particular order:
1. Electronic recording continues to become a major point of entry into the registry for new documents. From January to June, electronic recordings constituted 15% of our average daily recordings; from July to December, electronic recordings accounted for 23% of our daily recordings.
2. In June, contractors began construction of an elevator here at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse. The elevator, which is expected to be finished in the spring of 2011, will only service two floors but it will make the important parts of the building accessible to all.
3. Because of the ongoing financial crisis, the Commonwealth announced that groundbreaking for the new Lowell Judicial Center has been pushed back from 2011 to 2013 with an estimated completion date of 2015.
4.The total number of documents recorded for 2010 was down from 2009 by about 3%. For the entire year, the number of foreclosures was up 40% (which is bad) but starting in October, the numbers dropped consistently by more than 50% per month through December.
5. In December the legislature passed a complete revision of the state’s homestead law which will take effect in March 2011. The new law creates an automatic homestead exemption of $125,000, preserves the “declared” exemption of $500,000, and clarifies a number of ambiguities that existed in the old law.
6. The legislature also clarified the moment at which a document is deemed to be recorded in response to the “National Lumber” case from several years ago. National Lumber said a document was “on record” when it was physically received by the registry. The new law specifies that “on record” means the moment at which the registry assigns a book and page number to the document.
7. In July, the registry began using our new GIS app for recorded subdivision plans. This program, which will not be publicly available for at least a year, creates a Google-maps type of mashup that will show our recorded subdivision plans as interactive rectangles. Once finished, the user will zoom into a locus and see which, if any, subdivision plans include that area. Registry employees are currently plotting each plan in the program which is a time-consuming process.
8. A number of refinements and corrections have been made to the new version of the Mass Land Records website. While the old version is still the default setting, all major bugs were eliminated from the new version and the scanned images of all Middlesex North documents including pre-1855 documents and all grantor and grantee indexes.
9. After some basement flooding in the spring of 2009, we completely reconfigured our document and technology storage facilities in the basement of the courthouse so that all items are better protected from environmental damage and are more portable in the event we move to a new facility.
10. In December, the Lowell-based movie “The Fighter” was released to wide critical acclaim. Portions of the movie were filmed here at the Superior Courthouse during the summer of 2008.