Brevard uses its own web page instead of newspaper for some legal notices

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Brevard County is preparing to stop posting some legal notices on FLORIDA TODAY, instead opting to use only the county’s webpages to inform the public.

County officials could not disclose the types of legal notices posted exclusively on the county website. Lawyers were still investigating what would be allowed. Typical types of legal advertising include public meeting notices, proposed zoning changes, and property tax rates.

Brevard County Communications Director Don Walker said changes to at least some types of legal notices are likely to be implemented by the end of March. The move is being billed by county officials as a way to save taxes. This was made possible by a bill passed by the Florida legislature last year. The bill was sponsored by Randy Fein R-Melbourne Beach MP and county and local government agencies can but were not required to publish their own legal notices. county website.

Newspapers across the state, including FLORIDA TODAY, have lobbied against the move, saying issuing legal notices in independent venues would ensure transparency and visibility to residents, It points out that newspaper earnings will take a hit.

The amount of potential cost savings for the county is unknown. Walker said Brevard County paid him $79,756.73 to run a legitimate ad on his FLORIDA TODAY during his 2021-22 budget year.

Brevard County has contracted Miami-based Column Software for $24,000 a year to provide a system for advertising on the county’s website. Column Software will also mail legal notices to residents requesting them at a cost of $1.19 each..

The county also hired a staff web content and public notices expert in January to oversee the consistency of the county’s website. According to Walker, the person makes about $76,000 in combined salary and benefits per year and spends about 40% of his work week on legal notices. You may spend on problems.

The county hopes to eventually recoup some of the overall cost if other government agencies switch to county-run sites to pay Brevard to post notices.

Currently, in most Florida counties, notices are posted in three places (printed newspapers).Newspaper sites, etc.; The searchable Florida Press Association website compiles all Florida publications.

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Jim Fogler, president of the Florida Press Association, a non-profit organization representing the state’s daily and weekly newspapers, said that posting notices exclusively on government websites “further shadows government actions, It reduces transparency,” he said. It will be difficult for residents to monitor local government and hold government officials accountable.

He said the change, if implemented statewide, would be a patchwork of notices by county around Florida. He said he should know to proactively visit the county’s website rather than take the chance to come across.

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Walker counters that posting Brevard County’s notices only on the county’s website would increase transparency because it would keep everything in one place.

Additionally, under the county’s agreement with Column, Column will also push county legal notices to a searchable Florida Press Association website that aggregates all Florida public notices, Walker said. rice field.

Walker, who spearheaded the project and has been working on it since September, said the county’s legal staff is investigating the types of legal advertisements that can be placed only on the county’s website without advertising in newspapers. I was. Once that is determined, Walker will hold public hearings and obtain county commission approval under the terms of Florida House Bill 7049, which was approved by the Florida legislature last year and took effect January 1. It said the county could do so without doing so.

For other types of legal advertising that current county ordinances require to appear in newspapers, county commissioners will be asked to consider approving a new county ordinance that would eliminate that requirement, Walker said. Stated. Unless it violates state law.

The first vote to provide the ordinance’s so-called “legislative intent” is scheduled for March 7. The ordinance also requires a second vote, which could be as early as March 21.

Brevard County already has a web page – — Here, since December 1, we have published county legal notices at the same time as we publish them in our newspapers.

Walker said Column’s software will also allow other government agencies, such as the Brevard School District, to advertise on county sites. His 16 cities and towns of Brevard. A county charter officer, such as a court clerk or a tax collector.

contact Berman dberman@floridatoday.comon Twitter @bydaveberman on facebook Brevard uses its own web page instead of newspaper for some legal notices

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