The Albany County Commission on Tuesday adopted a set schedule of fees and charges for public records requests, a list that includes the costs of physical documents as well as the costs of staff time spent retrieving and copying records.
The resolution, effective immediately, is designed to standardize fees across different county departments, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said.
“It’s my understanding that each department has been charging some fees, maybe not completely for all public records requests,” she said. “This ensures that we’re applying a uniform system of fees and costs for those particular items.”
The fee schedule outlined in the resolution applies to “production, copies, printouts, or photographs of public records” and charges records requesters 50 cents per page for documents with 8½-by-11-inch and 8½-by-14- inch paper sizes and $1 for documents with 11-by-17-inch paper sizes.
Maps with 11-by-17-inch dimensions would cost $5 per page, while 24-by-36-inch maps would cost $10 per page.
GIS, or geographic information services maps, would also be subject to fees: $5 for CDs, digital uploads or downloads of specific information and the corresponding Excel ownership database on CDs, and $50 per hour for custom map and data development and map and data delivery.
“As we are going forward with our budgetary crisis right now this also ensures that we are recouping the costs,” Trent said.
The resolution states county offices will not charge records requesters for time spent retrieving and copying documents unless that work takes more than four hours to complete. If the copy and retrieval time exceeds the four-hour limit, the requester would be charged $25 per hour, prorated to the tenth of an hour, for the total amount of time exceeding the free service period.
“We can distinguish between major public records requests and minor ones in that respect,” Trent said.
She noted the county will not charge for electronic responses to requests — for instance, scanning and emailing a document — and the county would not be profiting from the fees for physical copies of documents, further stating records requested from the Laramie/Albany County Records and Communications Center fall under the jurisdiction of the city of Laramie, rather than the county.
Commission Chairman Tim Chesnut observed the topic of charging for public records had played out in the courts recently. In November, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled public records custodians can charge fees for the inspection of electronic records if a request requires the production of a copy of the record — a decision that arose from a legal dispute between the Laramie County School District No. 1 and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle regarding the school district’s policy of charging for public records.
Albany County School District No. 1 subsequently adopted its own public records request policy in January, including set fees for documents.
Commissioner Heber Richardson said he anticipated members of the public might be concerned the costs would essentially block or remove access to public records, but he found the list of fees to be “nominal.”
“The problem is that if the county gets bogged down, personnel and material wise with public records requests, without compensation, that means all the taxpayers are paying for that,” he said. “And I think that, I mean, if I were to go and ask somebody for public records, I’m prepared to pay for them, and I know that attorneys generally are.”