Land records office's hours are cut

Head of law committee calls Balto. County reduction `catastrophic'

November 08, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Hours have been cut at Baltimore County's land records office, a move that the head of a key county bar association committee described as "catastrophic" with interest rates declining and the demand for mortgage refinancing rising.

Circuit Court Clerk Suzanne K. Mensh instituted the new hours Oct. 22, expressing concern over security and what she termed acts of vandalism that have occurred in the office.

Mensh cut the daily closing hour from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. and eliminated the Saturday hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday.

"I feel, particularly at this time when we are in a time of crisis after the [Sept. 11] attack, I'm concerned about security," Mensh said.

Mensh said the changes are not final and will be reviewed at a meeting this month.

Abstractors, who use the land records office to research property titles and deeds, say the cutback could not have occurred at a worse time. With interest rates at near-record lows, the abstractors are at their busiest as they try to help complete property sales and refinancing of mortgages.

"This is about the worst time this could ever happen," said Randy Surgeon of Abstracts Ltd. in Towson.

The abstractors have gained the support of the Baltimore County Bar Association, which fears that shrinking office hours could cause real estate attorneys to have to wait for title searches for settlements.

"This is going to be catastrophic for trying to get refinancings, especially with interest rates dropping," said Lisa Eisemann, who is chairwoman of the bar association's land records committee.

Mensh says several acts of vandalism have occurred in the office on the second floor of 401 N. Bosley Ave. Employees' money and keys have been stolen, and there has been unauthorized use of office computers and copiers, she said.

Abstractors dispute her claims.

"It would not be in our best interest to do anything to the materials in this room," said Beth Feeney, a self-employed abstractor who has been using the room for 16 years. "We need this place for our livelihood."

Mensh said her decision on office hours will be reviewed. She will hold a meeting at 9 a.m. Nov. 21 in the building's employee lounge to make a final determination.

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