Residents seeking public documents will now have to pay a fee within the City of Cullman.
After considering a new records policy for some time, the council has approved a slightly amended version of an ordinance they tabled last month.
The new ordinance establishes a 50 cent per page cost, up from 25 cents in the initial draft. The fee will cover every requested page, as there is no minimum page amount set for when the cost becomes effective (i.e. after 10 pages, etc.). Any document request must be filed with city hall via a new “document request form.”
The new policy also removes language that established a $45 per hour clerical fee to pull documents, instead stating the person will be notified and asked to pay the “actual cost” to assemble and copy documents before they are retrieved.
Anyone wanting a CD of digital documents to be mailed to them will have to pay $6 in addition to all other fees. All requests should be filled within seven days, barring extenuating circumstances.
“This is really for large requests that can sometimes take weeks at a time to put together,” city clerk Wes Moore said.
The final version of the ordinance removed a section stating these charges will not be recovered from customers requesting copies of their own monthly billing information or correspondence to citizens by the City.
With the approval of this policy, it marks the city’s first formal effort to establish a set cost and protocol for accessing city documents. In the past the city has handled large document requests on a case-by-case basis, setting a one-time price based on the work involved to assemble the information.
City council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said the policy is intended to help the city recoup costs from people who request documents and information in very large quantities, not deter average citizens from seeking information.
“This isn’t about people coming to get one or two copies and for them everything should really stay the same,” he said. “But it’s request for volumes and volumes of documents that are becoming an issue, and it takes away from the productiveness the taxpayers are paying for. It’s public information and everyone is obviously welcome to it, but we’re just trying to break even. If something is important to someone, that cost won’t be a deterrent.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.