One councilman at Tuesday’s Birmingham City Council meeting pulled an item from the consent agenda to express his concern about paying $65,000 to the Birmingham Times to publish public notices in print for the city.

Alabama law requires municipalities to publish public notices in print through a designated local newspaper. Public notices contain information about government-related activities, such as requests for service bids or scheduled public hearings.

On Tuesday morning, the Birmingham City Council had to decide whether or not to authorize Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to “execute and deliver an Agreement with the Birmingham Times Media Group, LLC, under which Birmingham Times Media Group, LLC will provide through weekly print and online media valuable and essential information and public awareness to the citizens on City Codes, Ordinances, programs, services, and other related concerns to positively support the Birmingham communities.”

The resolution promised as much as $65,000 to the Birmingham Times in exchange for distributing 50 weekly print copies between December 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024. 

If the Birmingham Times were to print 50 newspapers in the 30 weeks during that term, the price of each paper for the city would be $43.30. 

Though Birmingham also publishes notices online, the law specifically requires them to publish them in print. There was a bill in this year’s legislative session to amend this requirement, but it never received a vote in the House. 

“I know that we have an obligation under Alabama state law to advertise all of our public meetings,” said Birmingham City Councilman Hunter Williams. “Think about all the times when there’s a zoning request. We have to advertise that. We have a heavy obligation under law to advertise when public meetings take place, and actually, I think that one of the best places to do it in this city is Birmingham Times because it’s specific to the city and it’s specific to who would have an interest in these hearings.”

“But it just seems that having 50 copies of the Times for $65,000 in taxpayer money is excessive,” he continued. “…I just wanted to voice my concern.”

Nevertheless, all of the council members voted in favor of the resolution when it came up for a vote following Williams’ comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to show the correct per-paper cost of 50 newspapers for 30 weeks.

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