News

City sends legal newspaper criteria back to committee

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

The Federal Way City Council is calling business leaders back into service to discover whether they really meant to recommend the city change its paper of record from a local, twice-weekly newspaper to a daily, out-of-town newspaper.

After adopting criteria earlier this month requiring that the city’s paper of record must be published daily, council members on Tuesday ordered the recommendation back to the Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee to see if the criteria need to be amended.

As passed, the criteria bars the Federal Way Mirror and the Federal Way News from participating in the bidding process because neither paper is published daily.

The council decided to change the paper of record after a permit stakeholders group — an advisory group of business leaders formed last year to find ways to streamline the city’s permitting process — took direction from an Everett consulting firm and recommended the city publish legal notices in a daily newspaper to speed up the public notification process.

Councilman Dean McColgan said the recommendation came in regular, open public meetings. The consultant presented its draft recommendation to the committee last September and the stakeholders presented their report to the council in October.

“There was a lot of time for the Mirror to contact the city and explain their concerns,” McColgan said.

But several members of the business community spoke Tuesday in support of the Mirror, a twice-weekly that has published the city’s legal notifications since 1999, saying the city shouldn’t make a decision that would hurt a Federal Way business.

Robert Hitchcock, general manager at Foundation House and a member of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s board, noted the council’s decision precluded either local newspaper from bidding.

In response, the Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to open the process “so our two local papers, and two papers that by the way do a lot for this community, can at least participate in the process,” Hitchcock said.

Former chamber president Russ Wolf said he appreciated the city’s determination to improve the permitting process, but said excluding the local papers from the bidding process was not the answer. He added it wouldn’t help the city or the business community to “pay more money to circulate notices to fewer people while hurting a Federal Way business.”

The city has said the printing cost –– $24,626 in the Mirror last year –– could rise as high as $44,000 under the proposed change.

Some who testified against the city’s criteria said it appeared city government was retaliating against the Mirror for coverage of city projects, but McColgan said the assumption was untrue.

“I was offended by any implication that this was anything but an effort to improve the permit process,” he said. “There was absolutely no ulterior motive. This council acts with the highest integrity.”

City officials last week contacted members of the permit stakeholders group to ask whether they meant to preclude the local newspapers from bidding to be the city’s paper of record. The information will be forwarded to the finance committee for further review and will then be sent back o the council for a final decision.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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