There are times when people chafe over having to file paperwork with local governments, or to document transactions, or to keep certain records about real property.

But homeowners in Black Hawk are finding out how important it is, the hard way.

An unknown gypsum mine emerged last week, breaking water and sewer lines and causing a dozen families to evacuate, the Rapid City Journal reported. Meade County deputy planning director Bill Rich said "We're trying to look through the archive files to get all the information we can. I'm interested in what was submitted, what was mentioned, what wasn't -- there could have been things that were overlooked."

Not only are records sketchy about the abandoned mine, but records aren't clear about the Hideaway Hills development, which was approved less than 20 years ago. Some records show the developer and engineering firm, but their names aren't listed in the required public notices.

Closer to home, there were some unexpected discoveries during the reconstruction of SD-34 through Madison, where utilities were in a different place than recorded, or additional utilities found without a record at all.

Responsibility for record keeping falls on several shoulders, including utility companies, property owners, municipalities, road districts, and more. In most cases, we see improved record keeping among all these groups, and electronic records seem to be more easily shared among people who need to know.

Even so, we're still glad that utility locators do their work to find wires and pipes before the shovels hit the ground. The reality is that both improved recordkeeping and physical verification are important to keep citizens safe.

-- Jon M. Hunter