The Clark County Board of Commissioners voted March 18 to make The Reflector the official paper of record for the county. The decision means, starting July 1, the county’s legal notices will appear primarily in The Reflector.
Each year, the county is required by law to designate a paper of record for the purpose of publishing its legal notices. The Reflector and The Columbian were each recognized by county staff as qualified bidders for the designation.
After a nearly hour-long discussion, commissioners Tom Mielke and David Madore voted in favor of awarding the bid to The Reflector. Commissioner Steve Stuart voted against the motion.
“The big difference is it costs the citizens of Clark County half as much,’’ Mielke said.
“It was the right choice for so many reasons,’’ Madore said.
In addition to Stuart’s opposition, Madore and Mielke’s decision also went against the recommendation of county staff, as presented at the March 18 meeting by Mike Westerman, the county’s general services director.
The Reflector’s bid to the county included rates nearly half of The Columbian’s bid. The county will now pay The Reflector a line cost of $0.97 for first publication and a line cost of $0.80 if published more than once. The Columbian’s bid was for rates of $1.87 for first publication and $1.55 per line if published more than once.
The Reflector is a weekly newspaper with circulation in Vancouver (with a southern border of NE 99th St.), including the Salmon Creek and Felida areas. The paper also reaches Battle Ground, Brush Prairie, Hockinson, Ridgefield, La Center, Woodland and other communities in North Clark County, including Amboy and Yacolt.
The Reflector is delivered free to 26,826 homes, about the same number of The Columbian’s paid subscribers (27,601). The Reflector also has 608 paid subscriptions of readers outside its free delivery area. The Columbian delivers via direct mail a supplemental product to 84,758, but Westerman pointed out the county’s legal notices have never appeared in the paper’s direct mail product in the past and the county has never considered doing that in the future.
In 2013, the county paid The Columbian, as the paper of record, about $44,000 to publish its legal notices. The county also used other papers as appropriate, depending on the desired demographic target for the particular notice. In 2013, the county paid The Reflector a little more than $20,000 to publish legal notices.
Despite naming The Reflector as the new paper of record, the county will continue to use other newspapers to publish its legal notices when appropriate. Because of that, the potential savings for the county, even with The Reflector’s lower rates, is unknown. Both Mielke and Madore stated they believe the county will realize a savings.
“It’s hard to say; we will track it,’’ said Westerman, after expressing skepticism that the change in the paper of record will lead to any savings at all.
Stuart raised a concern that The Reflector’s circulation area doesn’t cover all of Vancouver, as well as Camas and Washougal. In the future, county notices that target citizens and businesses in those areas will be published in either The Columbian or The Post Record (Camas-Washougal’s weekly newspaper).
Madore said a key factor in his vote to award the bid to The Reflector was the fact that the paper’s website is free to the public and that the county’s notices will have a designated location on the paper’s website (www.TheReflector.com). Madore pointed out that The Columbian’s website requires a paid subscription after visitors access a minimum number of stories each month.
“People would rather get their news from a free source that serves our community better than a subscription online website,’’ Madore said.
Despite recommendation that the commissioners award the bid to The Columbian, Westerman expressed confidence that he and county staff would have a cohesive working relationship with staff of The Reflector moving forward.
“It will put some pressure on (county) staff, but we will get it done,’’ Westerman said.
Marvin Case, former owner and current publisher emeritus of The Reflector, bid unsuccessfully on the county’s legal notices in all of his 30-plus years as publisher, “As did Jack Dodge in his 30 years before me. I always bid a fraction of the price of the other bidder, but the county never wanted to save money, I guess,’’ Case said.
“To my knowledge, The Reflector was designated as the county’s paper of record only one year, which was sometime in the 1950s,’’ Case said. “It has always seemed straight-forward to me – anyone interested in reading the county’s legal notices could simply subscribe to The Reflector, were we the paper of record.
“The public may wish to express its appreciation to the county commissioners, who have taken this important action which saves money without any sacrifice in service,’’ Case said. “Prior commissioners just never had the political will to take this step.’’
The Reflector is currently owned by Laframboise Communications, which also owns two other Washington papers – The Chronicle in Centralia and the Nisqually Valley News in Yelm.
“We’re thankful that the commissioners recognized The Reflector’s ability to meet the county’s needs when it comes to the publishing of legal notices,’’ said Laura Venneri, general manager of The Reflector. “For more than 100 years, The Reflector has enjoyed a unique relationship with our loyal and engaged readers. We look forward to continuing to improve the manner in which we provide news and other information to our readers, both in print and on our website.’’
In addition to free delivery anywhere inside its circulation area, The Reflector offers annual direct mail subscriptions for $42 outside of its delivery area. For more information, call (360) 687-5151 or visit www.TheReflector.com.