East Ridge has joined Chattanooga in supporting legislation that would allow government bodies to bypass newspapers and advertise their public meetings on the Internet.
With minimal discussion, East Ridge City Council members on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution seeking to "make searching for public notices easier and clearer online through our locally supported government website."
The East Ridge resolution asks the Chattanooga Times Free Press to print legal notices for free and predicts that a "greater number of people" will see notices on the city website, "promoting increased public participation in government."
East Ridge's website attracted 345 unique visitors in December, according to www.compete.com, a website that documents Internet traffic. The Times Free Press' average daily circulation Monday through Friday is 73,768. The newspaper's website, where legal notices also are published, attracted 558,813 unique users in February.
LEGAL AD SPENDING
East Ridge has spent $15,621.76 over three years to run legal notices in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The city's budget this year is $10.3 million.
• 2008-09: $5,936.40
• 2009-10: $7,009.80
• 2010-11: $2,675.56
Source: East Ridge
The resolution also promises to "save taxpayer money." Records show East Ridge has paid the Times Free Press $15,621.76 to advertise legal notices in the last three fiscal years.
The city's budget this year is $10.3 million.
For now, the resolution is symbolic. State law requires legal notices in a newspaper of "general circulation" to update the public about government meetings, bids for goods and services and other legal proceedings, such as public hearings or foreclosures.
Legislators have introduced bills that would move legal notices to government websites or allow their publication by "electronically published newspapers."
While the East Ridge resolution passed without objection, Councilman Denny Manning repeated a concern he had raised earlier at an agenda session.
"There's a lot of elderly-like people out there without computers and everything else," Manning said.
Interim City Manager Eddie Phillips appeared to allay Manning's concern, stating that "citizens could call City Hall and we would send them the information."
The Chattanooga City Council voted 9-0 on a resolution backing the state legislation last week, expecting to save about $75,000 a year.
Chattanooga's annual budget is $185 million. Its website attracted 31,947 unique visitors in December.