Public records fees for the city of Hermiston have expanded to include email and other digital formats.
The city council voted Monday to add $35 per hour fee to cover staff time for “lengthy” records requests that take more than 15 minutes to fulfill. The fee will be charged in increments of 15 minutes.
Previously, fees were mostly based on reimbursement for the physical record — such as a printed page or DVD — instead of based on the staff time it takes to compile the information then redact or format as needed. A memo to the council estimated the city spends $21,000 of staff time on records requests each year.
City Manager Byron Smith said the city once fielded a request for certain types of emails that took $2,000 of staff time to complete but the person did not pay anything because they received electronic copies.
He said the most common form of records request was police reports, about 60 percent of which are requested by insurance companies or attorneys. Victims always receive a redacted copy of their police report for free. Smith said police reports take about 15 minutes to prepare, but the police department also gets about two requests per month for video footage, which takes two to four hours to complete.
City staff made the same recommendation of $35 per hour two years ago, but the council rejected it. This time, however, Smith said the legislature has enacted a bill that gives the city 10 days in most cases to fulfill a request starting Jan. 1. That causes more of a burden for the city, he said, and cities in Washington have reported that a similar law has caused some people to make repeated time-consuming requests on the hope that the city will fail to meet a deadline and they can take the city to court or press for a settlement.
“I feel like we need to be prepared to ward off some of these frivolous requests,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to update the fee structure.
The council also gave the city manager permission to enter into an agreement for developer Denis Hyatt to lease the land to build four hangars out at the Hermiston Municipal Airport. Assistant city manager Mark Morgan said Hyatt plans to use one and rent out the other three. He said he was “very confident and excited” about the project because the city-owned hangars are all full and have a waiting list.
On Monday, Smith also introduced Mark Krawczyk, who was on his first day as the city’s new finance director. Krawczyk is replacing Amy Palmer, who resigned in July. He was previously assistant finance director for Fort Worth, Texas and said all of his career has been spent in finance, including 16 years in the utilities industry.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.