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Open records set to get cheaper
Gainesville officials worry about recouping cost of fulfilling requests
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As part of the revisions to open records laws, the cost of getting government documents would drop to 10 cents from 25 cents per page.

That change may seem insignificant, but it has troubled Gainesville city officials, who say they already lose money filling records requests.

Currently, the city only recovers somewhere about 38 percents of the costs of filling records requests, City Clerk Denise Jordan said.

While local governments can charge for time spent filling a request, there are limits to what they can charge.

“We cannot bill for time spent looking for whether something is an open request,” Jordan said.

In fiscal year 2011, the city received 285 requests requiring 367 processing hours. Jordan said 62 percent of the processing time was not billable.

The city collected $4,809.95 in records request fees; about $803 represented copy fees for standard size documents, said Jordan.

The new price would reduce that by about $500.

Not every local government clerk is concerned about the price change, however.

“It will impact us, but not significantly,” Hall County Commission Clerk Melissa McCain said.

McCain, who has been with the county since January, said most of the request made to her take less than 15 minutes to fill and can be sent electronically by email.

“The age of electronics has been fantastic,” she said. “With everyone needing things immediately, I think it helps government and the public because we’re able to find records and ship them out faster.”

Unlike the county, Jordan said many city documents can’t be sent electronically so easily.

She said many of the requests are directed at the Gainesville Police Department for reports. In such documents, personal information has to be physically redacted before it can be delivered, requiring more time and resources.

But Jordan said there could be changes come down the line to make it quicker and cheaper for the city to process the request.

“We are going to revisit the process to see if we can make some adjustments for the future,” she said.

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