NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – News outlets and local governments are watching closely, as state lawmakers reconsider a bill that they shot down last session.
Senate Bill 186 would exempt county and municipal governments from publishing notices that are legally required in newspapers. Instead, they would direct readers to websites for the information or send email blasts to subscribers.
In 2012, New Hanover County spent $54,728 on legally-required notices. County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said it does not make sense to pay for a duplicate service already handled by county staff.
"You're going to pick up a telephone and call someone or email them over at the newspaper," he said. "Or you could do it yourself and save the tax payers a lot of money."
Beth Grace, Executive Director of the North Carolina Press Association, said Tuesday that any cost savings would be lost when counties spend money to upgrade websites and manage their own notifications.
New Hanover County is already in the process of upgrading its website, and Barfield pointed out that several staff members already handle the county's website and social media pages.
More important than dollars spent, Grace said the biggest potential problem with the bill is allowing governments to police their own notifications without any oversight.
State lawmakers rejected a similar bill in their previous session, and Grace said she will fight this bill just the same.
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