Monday, March 21, 2016

Registry of Deeds standardization

This is a follow-up to Thursday's post about my involvement in a Real Estate Bar Association (REBA) program earlier this week (I wrote this on Friday but inadvertently did not publish it until today, Monday, March 21, 2016). During our panel discussion, several audience members asked about the elusive topic of standardizing registry computer systems. I was able to give a brief reply then, but since it is a topic of broad interest, I thought I would explore the topic in a series of blog posts. Today, I offer a history lesson on how the ACS system came to be selected for use in so many registries of deeds:

  1. Back in the late 1990s, after several counties had been abolished, the Secretary of State's office began working closely with registers of deeds in Cambridge, Lowell, Worcester, and Greenfield, the only registries using the Wang computer system, and with the register from Northampton, were a system by Perceptics was in use. Neither Wang nor Perceptics was capable of handling dates beyond the year 1999.
  2. Because December 31, 1999 was a hard deadline and because the process of selecting a new computer system was a lengthy one, the Secretary's office and the registers decided to "remediate" the computer code in use on Wang and Perceptics so they could operate beyond 1999 and to defer the search for the new system until after January 1, 2000.
  3. However, since all involved knew that any replacement system would use Windows-compatible PCs on a wide area network, we used funding available for Y2K preparation to acquire and install the hardware and infrastructure that would be needed for the new system, whatever that system might turn out to be, prior to January 1, 2000.
  4. Y2K passed without incident.
  5. In 2000 and early 2001, the bursting of the dot-com bubble caused state revenue collections to plunge. As a result, the funding for a new computer system was frozen.
  6. In the spring of 2001, after an indication that state Information Technology (IT) Bond that was to be used for new registry computer systems might soon become available, the five registers of deeds and the Secretary of State's office began a system selection process. A RFP was issued, vendor demonstration days were held, and site visits were made to registries of deeds in Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Charlotte, North Carolina; to see the systems of the top respondent computer companies in action.
  7. Although the new system would initially be installed in just these five registries, the RFP (and the philosophy of all involved) was that this new computer system would eventually be used at every registry of deeds in the state. The timetable for replacements in other registries was not firm; the understanding was that as existing computer systems needed replacement, the ACS system would be installed. But, if an existing computer system was working satisfactorily and the register of deeds in that office wished to continue using the system, no new system would be forced on that registry.
  8. In April 2002, ACS was selected as the "target migration system." The first installation, in Lowell, became active on July 1, 2002. The other four registries followed in succession. Afterwards, many but not all of the registries in Massachusetts shifted to ACS which is now in place in a majority of registries in the Commonwealth.

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