Gaithersburg Drops Some Print Notices and Moves to Online Notice Posting

An August 6 Gazette article discusses how the City of Gaithersburg will save money by posting some of its public notices online rather than in a local newspaper.  The article also highlights concerns about restricting access to information to those who have computers and know how to use the Internet.

Gaithersburg officials expect to save about $20,000 next year in newspaper advertisements by posting some public notices online. … 

Although that might be a cost-saving measure for small municipalities, it has some critics worried about access to the information for those without computers and others fearing for a newspaper industry already reeling from declines in advertising. …

Under current state law, municipalities are required to use newspapers of general circulation to advertise petitions for annexation, applications to rezone property, the adoption of comprehensive plans, the establishment of tax rates, tax sale auctions, charter amendments and the repeal of a municipal charter.

While some cities, including Cumberland, have pushed to overturn Maryland law, cities such as Gaithersburg are taking the extra step of changing local laws to allow online advertising for notices not covered under state law.

Local governments across the nation are increasingly looking at the pros and cons of moving to online notice posting.  Last Session, the Maryland General Assembly considered legislation, HB 555 sponsored by Delegate Kirill Reznik, that would have allowed a county or municipality to publish legal notices on its website rather than publish the notice in a newspaper of general circulation.  If a local government opted to publish notices online, it must also provide an option for its citizens to receive the notices directly through the mail.  As previously reported by Conduit Street, MACo supported the bill.

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