FARMINGTON — The Franklin County register of deeds plans to acknowledge the receipt of a Freedom of Access Act request from a business and to let representatives know she is working on determining what it cost to produce a copy.

Register Susan Black discussed the letter dated Sept. 25 from MacImage of Maine LLC in Cumberland Foreside with Franklin County commissioners Tuesday.

MacImage plans to expand its Web site to provide access to all land records in Maine.

According to MacImage, all Maine counties now have registry Web sites but there is no one Web site which provides fast and efficient access to all land records in the state.

“This is a problem for those who perform statewide property searches or need copies of land records from several counties,” company General Manager John P. Simpson wrote.

The company’s FOAA letter request is for inspection and copying of all electronic land records in the possession of or under the control of the county’s registry of deeds.

After obtaining copies of the requested records, MacImage intends to provide access to those documents on its Web site, Simpson wrote.

A Hancock County Superior Court justice recently sided with MacImage, stating that that county’s charge of $1.50 per page for electronic copy of its registry of deeds was excessive and violated state law.

“The court made it clear in the MacImage of Maine v. Hancock County case that the per-page fees charged by most counties for electronic copies of land records would not be reasonable when applied to a bulk request for thousands of pages of land records,” Simpson wrote. “The court held that a county may charge a fee to persons who request electronic copies of registry records in bulk, but that fee must be reasonably related to costs incurred by the county to provide the requested copy.”

The company is willing to pay a reasonable fee for copying the records specified in its request, the letter states.

“A ‘reasonable fee,’ as defined by the Hancock County case, could include the cost of staff time and materials such DVD disks required to comply with our FOAA request,” Simpson said in the letter.

Alternatively, the county could charge a subscription fee for all Web site use which allocates costs related to providing a copying function on the county’s Web site to all users, he said.

“MacImage is willing to pay such a subscription fee if some or all of the records we requested are provided via the county Web site,” Simpson said.

Black said she charges $1 per page for a hard copy of a deed. If people use the county’s Web site, they may view all documents electronically at no charge, she said, but if they want to print copies, they have to subscribe and pay an annual fee of $150.

On average, that service produces about $42,000 in copy fees each year for the county, Black said.

Some counties charge for online viewing of documents, she said, while others don’t. There are also varying charges for copies.

The software she currently has, she said, does not do some of the items MacImage requested, including mapping. It would cost the county money to invest in the software and service, she said.

Black and other staff plan to figure out what the actual cost is for a copy. There is a meeting of county registrars this week.

“I’m hoping I’m going to find more answers on Thursday,” she said.

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