Source: Sherman Publications

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Costly copier at City Hall

by Andrea Beaudoin

July 24, 2013

A single copy machine in Clarkston City Hall has cost taxpayers $14,000 so far, with no end in sight.

The city rented the the copying machine, also equipped to serve as printer, fax, and scanner, for about $3,200 a year from 2009-20012. The lease agreement allows 32,000 copies a year. Last year, the city went over that copy allowance by 11,000 and was charged an additional $728, bringing the yearly total to $4,000 in 2012.

The 36-month lease expired in May 2012. The new lease increased rent to $283.22 a month, said Administrative Assistant Marcy Daigle, which means the city paid $3,679 since May last year.

Daigle said the city was told they could continue using the machine by paying month to month or outright buying it.

"No one ever pursued it," she said.

Councilman Richard Bisio was the only member of Clarkston City Council to respond to a request for comment.

"Although you raise a legitimate question as to whether the city is getting the best deal, I don't think it's a simple question that can be answered in a few sentences topped by a snappy headline," Bisio said in an email. "If it were so perfectly clear that purchasing were the better choice, as you seem to suggest, then the leasing companies would soon go out of business."

Independence Township Clerk Barb Pallotta said the township just purchased five new copy machines to help supply employees and residents with information. The total cost for the five machines, which includes a special printer for the Parks and Recreation department, was $34,110.

Township Supervisor Pat Kittle said the township purchased the equipment because of the cost savings.

"We were paying more in the long run-to lease the machine," he said. "We found that we would make more money by keeping that money in the bank than by paying it in lease payments.

Ricoh USA Representative Rick Haitaian, said the company serves many municipalities, and customers are always given the option to buy a machine after a lease is expired.

He also said it would be in service representatives' best interest for the city to buy a brand new copy machine rather than keep a lease.

Steve Grumblagt from The Copy Man in Waterford estimated the cost to purchase a brand new machine similar to the city's at about $7,000.

"That's brand new, loaded with options and includes a one-year complete warranty," he said.

Grumblagt said people lease copy machines if they don't have the money to pay right away.

"If you have the money to buy the machine outright it saves money on interest payments," he said.

His company offers copy machine leases for about $150 month, but after four years the customer would own the machine for $1.

A search on Ebay showed the same model copy machine can be purchased for about $1,600. Other stores offer the machine for $2,000 used, or brand new for $8,000.

Daigle said repairs have been completed about a half dozen times since 2009.

Grumblagy said most copy repairs take about an hour to complete and he charges customers $120 for the repair-plus any parts needed. A service agreement can also be purchased.

Clarkston City Council is working to break down costs of copying documents as it considers changing its Freedom of Information Act policy.

City breaks down copier costs

Due to an ongoing issue with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) costs, City of the Village of Clarkston conducted an investigation to see how much the actual cost is to provide photocopied pages to information seekers.

The city rents the copy machine for $3,215 a year. Under the lease the city can make 32,400 pages of copy per year.

Last year the city used a total of 44,158 pages of copy, and the city was charged an additional $728 for extra copies.

City Manager Carol Eberhardt said it costs 3 cents for each sheet of paper and 1 cent for toner to copy the document.

Eberhardt will present the breakdown of costs to the council during the July 22 meeting, and ask council for suggestions on what the city should charge FOIA seekers for copies.

The new amended FOIA fee policy will inform residents that not-exempt files are available for public viewing during normal City Hall business hours.

If the information seeker does not want to search for information, the seeker may be charged a fee for searching and copying existing records.

The city can also charge labor costs for the lowest paid employee on staff for search, examination, review, deletion and separation of information.

If the estimated fee of the FOIA project exceeds $50, the city may charge the seeker a 50 percent deposit for the project.

On July 22, council voted to adopt the changes and charge 10 cents for copies.

-Andrea Beaudoin