For 300 people or more a day, a visit to the Fresno County Recorder’s office to pick up a birth or death certificate or record a deed to property means a ride aboard a groaning elevator or gingerly climbing a narrow, claustrophobic staircase.
And that comes after the challenge of finding a convenient place to park in downtown Fresno within walking distance of the Hall of Records.
Things are going to get considerably easier for the public next year, when the recorder’s office moves a couple of blocks to a newer, more convenient building – with its own free parking lot.
Fresno County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to enter escrow on a $2.4 million purchase of the two-story Noble Credit Union building at Van Ness Avenue and Merced Street. The deal includes 25 parking stalls on the property and a separate parking lot at Merced and L Street with another 42 spaces. Fresno County Assessor-Recorder Paul Dictos said the money is coming not from the county’s general fund – the pot of money from which many day-today operating costs are paid – but from a modernization trust fund for the recorder’s office, which gets $1 for every document recorded.
“I have about $15 million in that fund, so I’m paying cash for this. That money is sitting there for us to upgrade,” Dictos said. “I can buy equipment, we can improve the building, or we can buy a building that’s built.”
Another $800,000 from the trust fund will be used for renovations to the building, including a new roof and installation of an elevator that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dictos said he expects escrow to close by the end of this year and the remodeling work to be completed in time for the 27 members of the recorder’s staff to move by the end of 2018. For the public, he added, the differences will be enormous.
The Hall of Records at M and Tulare streets near the Fresno County Courthouse dates to the 1930s, and while the building has its architectural charms, it also has its drawbacks. “People have no parking. They park five blocks away, and sometimes they’ll get a ticket, too,” Dictos said. Employees, too, are left to their own devices to find convenient parking close to the office. “Now, the employees park far away, wherever they can find a place. We only have parking downstairs for the big shots. This is not right.”
He noted that “many (immigrant) families, when they get the birth certificate for their first child, they all come here, five or six people, because it’s a celebration. Sometimes the line of people goes all the way out the door. But the damn elevator is broken all the time, so they have to walk up those stairs.”
Parking at the new location, which was built in 1974, will be reserved for the public at no charge, while the lot just down the street will be for employees, also at no charge. And with the 9,000-square-foot ground floor housing the recorder’s public functions, no stair-climbing will be necessary for anyone wanting to record a deed or get a copy of a birth certificate.
The second floor, which is about 10,000 square feet, will serve as storage for archived paper documents – more than 20,000 bound volumes of vital statistics and other material – dating to the county’s establishment in 1856.