SNOW HILL – Copies of public documents will now cost requestors 25 cents a page, after the County Commissioners voted to establish a fee to cover the cost of copies and time spent.
The commissioners asked staff to investigate a 50-cent per page fee in early May. Both Commissioner Louise Gulyas and Judy Boggs felt that 25 cents a page was too low a fee.
Ed Tudor, director of Development Review and Permitting, which receives the most document requests, said that local fees range from 6 cents to 50 cents, but most are in the 25-cent range.
Ocean City, Berlin, and Snow Hill all charge 25 cents per copy, while Pocomoke City does not have a set fee. Wicomico County charges six- to 15-cents for black and white copies, and 25 to 30 cents for color.
A quarter per page should be adequate, according to Tudor, since each page over the monthly copy allowance in his office costs less than a tenth of a penny to copy, plus paper costs. A higher fee would not be necessary, he wrote in a May 10 memo.
The need for a set fee became clear in March when Development Review and Permitting received hefty Public Information Act document requests for a legal case.
“They’re asking for literally stacks of paper,” county attorney Ed Hammond explained during the commissioners’ first discussion of the topic last month.
Until this week, the county had no set document copy fee.
“We’ve handled it informally in the past,” Hammond said.
The county should set a fee, he said at an earlier meeting, so staff is not cutting deals on an individual basis for the work.
“We should really make a charge for it and we’re allowed to,” Hammond said.
Tudor said the time spent making the copies might be more valuable then the copies themselves.
“You really need to do something about this,” said Tudor at last week’s meeting. “Since I wrote the memo on May 10, I’ve had five of these come in. They’re eating us alive in time.”
Tudor also suggested making documents available on CDs and DVDs. The county is working on scanning documents into a computer system and those files could be burned onto digital media, he said.
Digital copies will cost $5 per disc. Other media may be considered if provided by the requestor and approved by the county’s information technology department.
The commissioners approved the new fee unanimously and without discussion.