County commissioners award legal advertising bid starting July 1
“If the commissioners find the new information compelling, you can readdress your awarding of the bid, but the lowest bid is very compelling. The law doesn’t say the lowest bid or the highest circulation.”
Perry Huston, Director of Planning for the county.
OKANOGAN – The Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and Methow Valley News have been selected as the official paper of record for Okanogan County and will publish the county’s legal advertising starting July 1, 2016.
The two newspapers teamed up to bid on the legal advertising and were unanimously selected over the current bid holder, the Omak Chronicle, at the county commissioners’ Tuesday, May 31 board meeting. However, the Chronicle disputed the numbers presented by the Gazette-Tribune and News and called Laleña Johns, the county clerk of the board. Johns arranged for the parties involved to further explain the circulation numbers and a meeting took place on Wednesday, June 15 with James Kostroski, circulation manager for Everett-based Sound Publishing, which owns the Gazette-Tribune, G-T editor Gary De Von and MVN editor and publisher Don Nelson, representing the bid winner. The Chronicle, a publication of Oregon-based Eagle Newspapers, was represented by publisher Teresa Myers.
Myers gave a short statement saying the press numbers listed in the cover letter of the two newspapers were greater than paid distribution.
Kostroski explained that press run numbers – the total numbers printed, are higher because unsold newspapers at retail outlets are returned. However, the bid called for specific numbers verified by the sworn Statement of ownership. Kostroski said he stood by the numbers in the G-T and MVN bid as they were verified by U.S. Postal audit and gave a breakdown of the two newspapers’ numbers versus those of the Chronicle’s.
“Figuring that on average at least two people read each issue, that only means there is a seven percent difference in the number of people reading the Gazette-Tribune and Methow Valley News compared to the Omak Chronicle,” said Kostroski. “I can’t see choosing a newspaper with seven percent greater readership and paying an 18 percent premium for it.”
In order to qualify to bid to become the newspaper of record, the paper must be by state law a general circulation newspaper. The law does not require the newspaper chosen by the elected officials to have the highest circulation, rather it says the contract should go to “the best and lowest responsible bidder, giving consideration to circulation.”
Okanogan County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Albert Lin reminded the commissioners of a 1987 case where a Beacon Hill newspaper was awarded the newspaper of record contract over Seattle newspapers with much higher circulation. Lin said the court upheld the contract for the smaller newspaper “because circulation is not the deciding factor and the smaller paper received the bid taking in all the factors.”
“If the commissioners find the new information compelling, you can readdress your awarding of the bid, but the lowest bid is very compelling. The law doesn’t say the lowest bid or the highest circulation,” said Perry Huston, Director of Planning for the county.
He was unsure the bid had been officially awarded at the Tuesday, May 31 meeting, but said he would check it out.
Commissioner Sheilah Kennedy said she needed more time to do a little bit more review and the newspaper representatives were asked to return at 11:45 a.m.
When the meeting resumed Huston said, “It appears we did award the bid by motion to the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and the Methow Valley News based on the numbers they came up with.”
Commissioners Kennedy, Ray Campbell and Jim Detro each said they saw no reason to change their original awarding of the contract tot he G-T and the MVN and the representatives from the two newspapers thanked the commissioners for their time and consideration.
This is not the first time that the Gazette-Tribune has won the bid to be county newspaper of record, having won the bid several times with the Methow Valley News in the 1990s, when both were under different publishers. The Chronicle won the bid back and faced no challengers for county newspaper of record for several years. In 2009 the G-T, then owned by Leavenworth-based North Central Washington Media, combined with sister paper, the Quad City Herald and won the bid back with then Commissioners Mary Lou Peterson, Bud Hover and Andy Lampe approving the bid. The G-T and QCH remained the newspaper of record for the next two years as well. However, a change in the makeup of the county board saw the bid once again go to the Chronicle in mid-2013, despite an estimated cost of $20,000 more to the county per year. After unsuccessfully trying again the next year with the QCH, the G-T didn’t submit a bid last year, but decided to partner with the Methow Valley News this year.