The Cowlitz PUD Board of Commissioners is unified in its feelings that the utility should not be charging the public for access to records. In a 3-0 vote at yesterday’s meeting, the Commissioners rejected a request from PUD Attorney Paul Brachvogel, who suggested that they start charging an hourly rate for copying fees, a rate he had put at $43.40. In today’s Daily News, Brachvogel is quoted as saying that the $43.40 rate would cover the wages, benefits and add-on costs for the staff person who handles the public records requests. He also noted that most of that time is taken up by examining those records for exemptions to the Public Records Act. Commissioner Ned Piper says that there are legitimate concerns about certain individuals who might make unreasonable requests, but he also says that “transparency” is extremely important, and the imposition of this fee would stifle that transparency. A representative of the Daily News spoke to the Commission, saying that this would have a “chilling effect” on public access to records. Brachvogel claims that the fee would have only covered a “minor amount” of the requests, and isn’t intended to deter public access. Brachvogel says other changes are also needed in regard to the public records policy, and he plans to bring another resolution to the Commission in the near future.