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County asked to declare ‘newspaper of record’

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By Lou Elliott Jones

It’s that time of year when the Levy County Tax Collector’s Office starts pulling together the delinquent tax rolls that will be published in late spring. 

And while that is not exactly what Andy Andrews, publisher of the Levy County Journal, asked for at Tuesday’s Levy County Commission meeting, it is that lucrative business that pays over $60,000 annually that was the target of his request to be named the newspaper of record for all county advertising.

Several years ago, the commission decided to rotate publication of the tax rolls among the county’s newspapers. The practice was updated five years ago when Andrews made a plea for “fairness” noting he only got the list once every three years, while the Chiefland Citizen and Williston Pioneer, which are owned by Florida Newspapers LLC and part of the Levy Newspaper Group, collected payments that went to the same company the other two years in the rotation. 

At that time, the commission declined to name a “newspaper of record” and passed a resolution that set the new rotation: LCJ, Citizen, LCJ, Pioneer. This year, the Chiefland Citizen would be the publisher of the delinquent tax rolls.

Andrews, who has been lobbying the commission to have exclusive rights to all of the county’s advertising business, made his pitch saying that while his paper in fact is not the newspaper of record, “We are that in reputation.”

He repeated why he should win the exclusive government contract noting he is a local resident, although he has not owned a home in the county for more than 20 years. He did, however, own a home with his late wife in Gainesville where they raised their two girls. 

He said his paper is the only one with “Levy County” in its flag and “the only county-wide newspaper with county-wide circulation.” Much of what Andrews claimed was challenged by Citizen General Manager Tom Ten Broeck who also attended the meeting. 

“There are pretenders,” to the title Andrews said. He asked that the commission take up the matter as a non-agenda item as it was not on Tuesday’s agenda. 

His request was met with silence, and Andrews sat down.

But after a presentation by another person, he stood at the back of the meeting room and reminded the commission it had not acted. “I asked for a motion,” Andrews said. 

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) said the request was heard and his fellow commissioners “kind of gave me the no look.”

“So no one made the motion,” Andrews asked. 

Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) said everyone knows his position on refusing to hear non-agenda items. He has said it does not give the citizens input into the commission’s decision-making. 

“I’m asking now,” Andrews said. 

Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3) made the motion to name Andrews’ paper the newspaper of record but he had to pull that until Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) made the motion to hear the non agenda item which then passed 3-2 with Johnson and Stevens dissenting. 

Then Joyner offered to table his motion until “the other side” could present information. 

“The other side is here,” Andrews said indicating Citizen General Manager Tom Ten Broeck was in attendance at the meeting. 

Joyner went ahead with his motion to name the Andrews’ paper the newspaper of record. Meeks seconded the motion to open the discussion. 

County Attorney Anne Bast Brown said the motion would need refining. “I would need to know what that would mean,” she said. She said there are several different types of legal advertising outlined in state statutes. 

Andrews said, “What the newspaper of record has historically been and that is what I request. That is easily found at the service and pleasure as newspaper of record. To cover anything that needs to be covered so the citizens can see and hear what is going on in the courthouse and know what is going on in the courthouse.”

Andrews said if the commission needed to have a hearing he would “muster up the troops to be here.”

The Citizen’s Ten Broeck told the commission, “It seems we go through this every other year. You’re all businessmen and you’re running the business for the county. Why would you pay more for less? We are the highest circulated paper county-wide.

“Mr. Andrews says this is all about a public service,” Ten Broeck said. “But if you can‘t run a business  you can’t run a business. And you can’t depend on the county to subsidize your business.”

Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5) said the matter is brought up in years when Andrews does not get the tax rolls. 

Johnson said non-agenda items doesn’t allow for making a decision after reviewing the facts, figures, ideologies and history. 

Meeks said he did not have a problem with naming Andrews paper the newspaper of record. 

“I do have a problem with the timing of the request,” Meeks said. “Mr. Tom made a good point that we only hear this every other year.”

He conceded that making the Andrews paper the county’s official newspaper “would be making a hasty decision.”

Meeks said, “There is a definite need for a paper of record. Sometimes things do slip through the cracks with the way we advertise.”

Bell said the county did need a newspaper of record and he said the thought came from some of his constituents. “I do understand the timing might not be perfect.”

Andrews said the motion could be tabled until the next meeting and Joyner rescinded the motion.