IDEM Urged To Reconsider Decision On Published Notices
Resistance From Press Association And Others
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is being urged to reconsider a decision to stop publishing newspaper notices of some of the agency's public hearings.
Effective December 1st unless there's a change, the notices will be posted to the agency's website and delivered via email. IDEM says the move would save the agency as much as $7,500 a year.
"Taxpayer money is precious whatever the amount but we think...public awareness is worth that cost," says Jess Kharbanda, executive director, Hoosier Environmental Council, one of 18 interest groups making the request for a reversal.
Newspapers are not denying that the income is important to them. But the publications say they're providing a service in return for what they're paid and that comensation is limited by law.
"The state legislature has set a cap on, on what newspapers can charge going back to 1927," said Stephen Key, Executive Director and General Counsel, Hoosier Press Association. Key and Kharbanda don't object to email and web postings but they say it takes more than that to truly reach the public.
"After a long day of work, you're not gonna go home and start going through every government agency's website to try to determine whether or not there's something going on," said Key.
But IDEM says the cost savings isn't the real goal, anyway. The agency says its research showed the notices in the newspapers weren't getting people to attend hearings.
"If not all, the vast majority of them were already receiving their information from the internet rather than the public notices that were placed in the local newspapers," says Amy Hartsock, IDEM public information officer.