SEE ALSO: Archives offer treasure trove of York County history

York County's paper trail grows with its population -- in fact, with each new marriage, speeding ticket, home foreclosure and dog license purchase.

These records -- every divorce ever filed, every court case ever heard -- are kept by the York County Archives, headquartered in a small brick building on Pleasant Acres Road.

And the small brick building is running out of room.

All those records add up to a lot of paper. It might take an entire lifetime of waking hours to count each piece, which would be an exercise in frustration anyway as more is added every day.

The will of James Smith, part of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, can be found at the York County Archives.
The will of James Smith, part of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, can be found at the York County Archives. (Bil Bowden photo)

Some documents spend as many as 100 years in storage before they're committed to microfilm, shredded or recycled. In the interim, they compete for space.

The 1960s building was expanded in 2001, more than doubling its storage space, said archives director Christy Depew.

But even though it can now hold 39,000 1-cubic-foot boxes, the building would be completely full if the county hadn't started storing about 3,000 boxes in empty rooms at the nearby York County Annex.

That annex bought the county a few years, Depew said, but "at some point, we'll need more space."

Room, please: A few years ago, Depew inquired with the county commissioners to see if expansion were possible, but it was the middle of a economic recession and the estimated $1 million price tag was a turnoff.

"It wasn't the right time," said Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke. "So we put it on hold and found there

was some extra space in the annex facility."

Some offices have moved into newer facilities, freeing space there.

Hoke said he's not sure how long the arrangement will meet the county's archive needs, but he's hoping it will stretch the need for new space for at least a few years.

President Commissioner Steve Chronister is hoping the annex could be longer-term solution, as space could be freed if the York County Conservation District acts on plans to build new offices and move out.

"We want to try to utilize buildings that we have existing," he said. "We found them space right down the road, and that's just $1 million more that we didn't have to spend to improve our infrastructure."

Space cleared: Depew said her office will make do for now, though the volume of new documents exceeds the space freed when timed-out documents are cleared twice per year, Depew said.

Closed records that contain confidential information are shredded, while public records are recycled, clearing about 1,800 boxes per year.

Still, the piles grow as the archives take in another 2,000 or 3,000 boxes per year, she said.

Though some records are electronically scanned, the process is expensive and time-consuming. Depew said she'd need five times the staff and a lot more equipment to make a dent in the back records.