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Thread: Document reproduction costs and the public

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Document reproduction costs and the public

    So today, we had a woman call in screaming that she wants a free copy of a historic resources survey document that our office had produced last year. This particular caller is one of the 'usual suspects' - a resident who constantly has one axe or another to grind against the municipality. The printing costs for a full-color version of the document are about $75 each, depending on the number of copies to be produced. When we told her that we'd need to charge her if she wanted a copy, she went even more insane and stated that as a taxpayer, she is entitled to a free copy.

    How do you deal with someone who makes such a request? Yes, she is a taxpayer, but if every taxpayer in the community requested a copy, you're talking a massive expense. FWIW the document is available in a free downloadable version from the municipality's website, but she specifically requested a bound, full color hard copy.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    You need to tell her she is entitled to whatever copies she wants so long as she pays for them at cost. If she has a problem with that she can contact your city attorney who can explain it to her. It sounds like she is one of those people who won't listen to you regardless of what you tell her so don't waste your time explaining that being a taxpayer doesn't entitle you to printed documents. She'll fight it until the end and it will drive you crazy. Maybe slip in there as a taxpayer, she should appreciate you are watching the budget closely and if every tax-paying citizen wanted everything for free taxes would need to be raised.

    Offer to print a copy after you get paid or tell her she can print one for free from the website.


    We raised the fee for conditional use permits and people were up in arms saying they shouldn't have to pay for us to do our jobs. Finally there was an article in the paper about it and most people agreed that taxpayers as a whole shouldn't have to pay for the desires of one individual.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  3. #3
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Well, I guess it depends on the politics of your muni. The last place I worked would just buy a supply of printed plans, zoning map , etc. and give them out for free if requested. It was a decision/long standing practice of the muni, and simply considered part of the service the muni offered.

    In my experience, the number of people actually requesting a copy of a certain document, especially plans documents was very very small and not really a problem.

    But, as I said, it all depends on the political culture of the muni or fiscal "tightness" of the Finance Director.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  4. #4
    Give the public library a non-circulating copy. Tell her she (and all the public) can access it to her heart's desire at the library.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Electronic copies are always free and available at our website. Our comp plan and zoning maps are available at the front counter, however at a cost to take home, free to view at the counter.

    For larger development projects and EIRs we always send a copy to the library for reference only and have a copy at the counter for public view. We have Electronic CDs available for free as well. We make arrangements with our local printing company to provided binded copies available to the public at a cost to the public. We direct people there if they want their own binded copy. Obviously they need to pay the printing company to receive a copy.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Give the public library a non-circulating copy. Tell her she (and all the public) can access it to her heart's desire at the library.
    We gave hard copies to the local library and to all of the local schools. We do charge for hard copies of zoning maps, the zoning code, the Comp Plan, and this is no different. I think this woman just has an axe to grind - her argument was 'I've already paid for a copy because I pay taxes'. Sigh.

    Thanks, everyone.

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    'I've already paid for a copy because I pay taxes'. Sigh.
    Alright, ma'am here's your copy of the your previously paid portion of the report - the word "documented" from page 37.

    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    When we get customers who want everything for free based on being a "taxpayer" we explain that their taxes pay for the services of having the map (or whatever product) initially researched and developed as well as posted online in a printable version or available for inspection in our office for free. We explain that we are not budgeted to hand out free copies of most of our materials (especially items that would be bound or come off of a plotter) but that we do provide that service at cost for interested parties.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    All excellent suggestions - copies at the library and front desk for viewing, electronic version online, print copies at cost. We often do a summary document that our clients can print and distribute freely. I think the comparison is to a public records request. You have to comply with the request, but you can charge the reasonable costs of reproduction. The taxes she pays do not grant her any special entitlement to receive extensive printed and bound documents.

    Oh, you might consider chaining the desk copy to the counter to keep it from "walking away".
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    We calculated out what one property owner paid me based on his property taxes only, and it was 00:02:36 minutes of my time. His property taxes paid .00003% of our annual budget.

    "Have a minute?"
    "For you I've got 2 and a half!"

    That's the beauty of taxes that people don't realize. You get full benefits from the fire dept, police, housing dept., water, sewer, schools, etc. without having to pay for it all.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    The way I frame it is by making all the below available, and talking about the budget, which is tight in these economic times and taxpayers are hurting. If the Usual Suspects aren't satisfied with that, they can pay the published reproduction fee for a copy. The economy is too awful to coddle this kind of nonsense.

    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    You need to tell her she is entitled to whatever copies she wants so long as she pays for them at cost. If she has a problem with that she can contact your city attorney who can explain it to her.

    Offer to print a copy after you get paid or tell her she can print one for free from the website..
    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Give the public library a non-circulating copy. Tell her she (and all the public) can access it to her heart's desire at the library.
    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Electronic copies are always free and available at our website. Our comp plan and zoning maps are available at the front counter, however at a cost to take home, free to view at the counter.

    For larger development projects and EIRs we always send a copy to the library for reference only and have a copy at the counter for public view. We have Electronic CDs available for free as well. We make arrangements with our local printing company to provided binded copies available to the public at a cost to the public. We direct people there if they want their own binded copy. Obviously they need to pay the printing company to receive a copy.

  12. #12
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Here, I'd just refer to the state law:

    http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/...1-A/91-A-4.htm

    ...

    IV. Each public body or agency shall, upon request for any governmental record reasonably described, make available for inspection and copying any such governmental record within its files when such records are immediately available for such release. If a public body or agency is unable to make a governmental record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgment of the receipt of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied. If a computer, photocopying machine, or other device maintained for use by a public body or agency is used by the public body or agency to copy the governmental record requested, the person requesting the copy may be charged the actual cost of providing the copy, which cost may be collected by the public body or agency. Nothing in this section shall exempt any person from paying fees otherwise established by law for obtaining copies of governmental records or documents, but if such fee is established for the copy, no additional costs or fees shall be charged.

    ...
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Do you have an adopted fee schedule? Our copying fees are included on our schedule.

  14. #14
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Otis View post
    Do you have an adopted fee schedule? Our copying fees are included on our schedule.
    Our Board includes document copying costs in the unified fee schedule.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

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