Chattanooga plans effort to get rid of decades of stored records

In the dim light of a smartphone, the lettering on the side of the 10-odd white storage boxes is faintly legible: "Confidential Medical Information. Medical Personnel Only." A few feet away, in this darkened corner of a storage warehouse on East Main Street, another box is labeled "Unpaid Parking Tickets." There are long cabinets with flat drawers — the label on one reads "TVA Project." Two mattresses sprawl incongruously nearby.

In the darkness, Chattanooga City Attorney Wade Hinton squats down to examine the contents of yet another box, getting a firsthand look at the Herculean task he is undertaking — deciding what to do with decades worth of city government documents, and creating a policy to determine what should be done with new documents — both paper and electronic.

Hinton concedes that no one knows exactly how many boxes or cabinets or closets or attics or basements full of documents exist across all city departments. The general policy for decades has been "keep everything," he told City Council members Tuesday evening as he explained his proposal. One of his first tasks is to get each department to perform a survey to determine what it is storing now. Continue…