State closes archives to publicBy Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Citing budget cuts, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced Thursday that he is ending the public's ability to walk in any time to the state archives, making Georgia the only state without a central location to visit, research and review historical records without prior arrangements.
The last day members of the public can drop in will be Oct. 31.
"We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety," Kemp said in a statement from his office.
Deal order the spending cuts to all state agencies except for the Department of Education.
Kemp said his agency has no more excess to eliminate and is left to dropping services to the public to reach the $733,000 reduction target.
He will also lay off staff, but didn't say how many or who.
The public can still access the official documents and museum pieces housed at the archives, but they'll require an appointment first.
As word spread among the members of the genealogical community that often comb the records, frequent visitors registered disappointment.
"Every time I've been there, it's been very busy," said Tom McConnell, a history buff from Henry County.
He praised the staff for its helpfulness and the usefulness of the collection. While more genealogical information is showing up on the Internet with each passing day, some details are only available at the archives.
"It was a really great place," he said. "I hate to see it close."
Kemp vowed to get funding to reopen the facility when the General Assembly returns in January to consider Deal's latest reductions.
"I will fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia," Kemp said.
He expressed frustration because his agency collects three times more in fees and fines from professional licenses and corporate registrations than the legislature appropriates to it for operations.