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Carolina Beach To Consider Public Terminal To Access Council Emails

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Earlier this year Carolina Beach Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth requested the Town Manager explore providing a computer in Town Hall where citizens can read emails of elected leaders.
The Council will consider information provided by Town Manager Tim Owens at their May 8, meeting at 6:30PM at Town Hall.
Owens explained he looked at policies created by other towns and New Hanover County.
Owens said North Carolina law already requires employees to retain and produce emails. He explained that emails to and from the Town Council and Department Heads could be saved and viewed on a terminal for up to 30 days. A terminal can be placed in the front lobby at Town Hall.
Owens explained that, "Viewing of the emails can be from 10am to 2pm Monday through Friday to coincide with the hours of the part-time receptionist who could provide assistance if needed."
He explained that copies of emails could be printed and a fee collected per document page based on an adopted fee schedule. Emails would be for viewing only and not saved in digital format and will not be forwarded to another email account.
He explained, "Emails that are not considered public documents such as attorney client privileged information and personnel matters will need to be identified with the appropriate header and will not be available for viewing."
Owens explained, "If the Town council wishes to create a terminal for viewing of emails, we can do so. It is estimated that the cost of the project would be as little as $1,000 if we use Outlook [email software] or as much as $3,500 if we use more sophisticated storage and retrieval software as proposed to us by our IT vendor."
Owens explained that while emails are public record, they can often be "taken out of context or the meaning of emails misconstrued."
He explained, "The Outlook solution for managing emails could allow some emails that should be confidential to be able to be viewed on the terminal."
He said citizens often send emails to Town Hall and could be unaware that all emails are a public record and subject to viewing.
Owens explained the City of Wilmington spends about a $1,000 a year and provides 30 days of emails for public view. They do not charge for printing.
New Hanover County spends the same and provides two months of emails to and from Commissioners and Department Heads. There is no option to save or forward emails. Only print at ten cent per copy.
Kure Beach spends $1,255 a year. Emails are filtered like the County and City of Wilmington. The Town Clerk monitors the system and they charge ten cent per copy.
The Council will consider the issue at their Tuesday May 8, meeting at 6:30PM.