Requesting info now comes with a fee
Accessing information through the Town will now come at a charge after a new bylaw was passed at the May 15 regular council meeting. The new bylaw will see people paying $8.85 per quarter hour, or $35.40 per hour to have FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) information pulled.
“(For a) FOIP request generally you have to pull files and you have to go through each individual page of that file to take anything out that can’t be released due to FOIP,” said Jennifer Sawatzky, FOIP coordinator for the town.
“If someone is just coming in for general information we’re not going to charge them for that, but if it’s something that has to be filed under FOIP then that’s when it would apply.”
The fee was taken from within the salary range of the municipal clerk because they would be the one gathering the information.
Strathmore is not the first community to charge a fee to collect FOIP information.
“It’s typical in most communities that they do charge a fee for gathering information, it’s just to cover staff’s time for doing it. It really depends on the size of the request, some requests can take 10 minutes but some requests can take days, so it’s really to cover that cost,” said Sawatzky.
The new bylaw was discussed because of the municipal election coming up. Chief Administrative Officer for the Town Dwight Stanford said that before the last election there were a lot of man hours that went into finding information requested.
“At the last election we had to gather information for the public and it was over $20,000 worth of staff time getting the material,” said Stanford.
Much of the information requested three years ago was for financial records, which took several weeks to gather.
“I really am impressed and I like this idea because as…stated earlier in the last election campaign there were a lot of requests and information searched by our town staff, and I don’t think a lot of people realize how much money that costs, and how much time that costs the staff and administration,” said Councillor Pat Fule.
“I think this is a very good way, if someone is desperate or interested in finding out information, there needs to be a cost to offset what it takes to do all this information finding, so I think it’s a great idea.”
The bylaw passed with third reading at the May 15 meeting. A guide to better understand FOIP and what information may fall under it can be found by going to http://www.servicealberta.ca/foip/documents/FOIPGuide.pdf.