Georgia limits public access to archives

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 previous arrangements.

The last day that members of the public can drop in will be Oct. 31.

Kemp, whose office oversees the archives, said that when Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a further 3 percent reduction in spending because of weak tax collections, the choice came down to services the secretary of state’s office provides for businesses or the archives.

“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 ordered 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 staffers, but didn’t say how many or who.

The public can still access the official documents and museum pieces at the archives, but they will require an appointment.

As word spread among members of the genealogical community who 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. Though more genealogical information is showing up on the Internet with each passing day, some details are available only at the archives.

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.

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